Full disclosure: any “book review” from me will be neither intensive nor comprehensive. I’ll provide general impressions of the work, but I won’t go into any great detail about the plot or spoil anything (I hope). I certainly won’t say anything nasty… not that I have anything nasty to say. My purpose is to show support for indie authors and their work by spreading awareness of them to potential readers.
G.D. Sills is an independently published author originally from Manchester, England. He’s a seriously cool fellow with a website, Book Cream, a Facebook group devoted to book discussions, and a podcast called Beyond the Pages. I recommend checking them out—and not only because he interviewed yours truly in his latest podcast episode.
According to the author, The Commodore and the Matterless Martyr is “Doctor Who meets Harry Potter, 1984, and Pirates of the Caribbean.” I’m inclined to agree with him after reading it. I certainly received strong Doctor Who vibes from the titular character, The Commodore, who carries a time traveling device in his pocket. This book also reminds me a little of Alice in Wonderland and—for some reason I can’t put my finger on—The Phantom Tollbooth. Perhaps it’s the whimsy and portal fantasy aspects in the novel.
Not to say his work is in any way derivative. On the contrary; aside from the author’s comparisons to the aforementioned media, this book is unique and quite unlike anything I’ve read before. The story weaves together different fantasy and science fiction elements into a fascinating tale of adventure, personal growth, and sacrificial love. I carried away the impression that there was a lot going on beyond the fringes of the story presented on the pages of the book. The three realms the author invented—the Divine, Sanctuary, and Oblivion—all seem much broader in scope than what the novel actually shows and there were quite a few players involved. I hope this means further tales of the Commodore’s adventures in the future. Heh. See what I did there? A time-travel joke.
Although the point of view switches throughout the narrative, the protagonist is clearly “The Commodore,” James Marshall, and not Charlie Kingston, the young lad who hitches a ride with The Commodore to the Divine realm, into the past, and beyond. While likeable and an engaging character, Charlie doesn’t change much as a character during his adventure. He’s the catalytic spark instigating a shift in The Commodore’s existence and view of the world. It’s an interesting twist on the typical story where the child protagonist either comes of age, learns a valuable, life-altering lesson, or sees the world from a different perspective after baking in the crucible of conflict. Perhaps I’m missing something, but Charlie remains the same kid with the same world-view from beginning to end. And that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps we’ll see more of Charlie, too, in future installments.
Overall, I enjoyed The Commodore and the Matterless Martyr. It was entertaining, whimsical, contained gritty action, and I liked the characters. The “bad guys,” while eminently despicable, had realistic goals and reasons for their actions. The book contained both humorous and heart-wrenching scenes. I would love to see it made into a Netflix mini-series; I think it would transfer well to the film medium.
There’s one thing I wonder about. Maybe I’m just being obtuse, but I’m still not entirely certain who the “matterless martyr” was supposed to be. I have guesses—which I won’t share—but I could very well be wrong. Perhaps it’s meant to remain a mystery. Some books are like that. Or maybe I accidentally skimmed over that part in my breathless rush to find out what happened in the last battle and whether Charlie made it back home. Sometimes, I’m like that.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a mishmash of the chosen one trope, epic and/or portal fantasy, time travel, rebellion pitched against overwhelming odds, and maritime battles. I hesitate to label this work as “young adult,” but while it’s gritty, I found nothing objectionable for readers like graphic violence, excessive foul language, or sexual content. The Commodore and the Matterless Martyr is a “good read” and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.