Jon Ridley

The Beginning

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
232 Pages
Reviewed on 05/27/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Jon Ridley: The Beginning is a work of fiction in the science fiction and action-adventure sub-genres, and was penned by author Andrew P. Smith. Written for young adult audiences, the novel focuses on our titular character Jon, who faces immense difficulties at an early age when he is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. But Jon is armed with a powerful imagination and he, therefore, launches his life into a fantastical world where daily nightmares are transformed into adventurous challenges. Mythical beasts and powerful friendships are discovered along the way as the fight to overcome the forces of evil teaches important lessons about love, hate, and loss.

Author Andrew P. Smith has crafted a highly immersive fantasy world that any young adult and indeed many adult readers will want to dive straight into. The overarching idea of Jon and his illness, and utilizing fantasy in order to hang on and survive, is very inspiring, and it fills the narrative with a powerful sense of hope even when things look rough and difficult in the plot. I found the descriptive techniques really brought the different concepts, creatures, and fantasy elements to life, and the action scenes were well-paced to deliver some really exciting moments. The dialogue is where we find the poignant and emotive lessons of the novel being delivered, in a naturalistic form that makes them all the more valuable and central to the tale. Overall, I would definitely recommend Jon Ridley: The Beginning for classic fantasy fans looking for a meaningful and well-penned story.

K.J. Simmill

In Andrew Smith's Jon Ridley: The Beginning, seventeen-year-old Jon Ridley was always amazed when it seemed people knew his name. He wanted nothing more than to get home, but the longer he traveled the hazier his memories became. He had hoped to vanquish the great demon Gargoran but had barely escaped with his life, and his weapon had been destroyed, broken into forty-two fragments, and sent across the stars. If he had any hope of keeping his world safe he must vanquish this demon, but only his scythe can do so. Thus begins his journey across the cosmos to face friend and foe alike and gather the shards towards a future where he will hopefully save his world and himself.

Jon Ridley: The Beginning is a combination of science-fiction, adventure, and time-travel with a slight hat tip to the LITRPG genre. In this seek and retrieve style quest Jon is forced to make difficult choices, and those decisions have some serious ramifications. He is known as a demon hunter, but his quest forces him to face more than just demons, and unlock secrets covered for Millenium. New friends and new enemies are pivotal to his journey as he seeks to learn who can be trusted and is sent to places of imaginative and untold dangers, from blood-seeking horrors to dragons. Andrew Smith's concise and simplistic style of writing will appeal to a young audience as the easy third-person perspective draws you along for the ride, and while wrought with fantasy violence, difficult decisions, and combat, there is nothing too gratuitous. I enjoyed the twists that were woven within, and how everything is not as it seems. Anger, fear, and hatred drive a plot filled with hardships, difficulties, obstacles, challenges, and monsters.

Asher Syed

Jon Ridley The Beginning by Andrew P Smith is book one in the fantasy series that revolves around the young titular protagonist as he maneuvers in and out of his earthly life and a chimera of the subconscious. From the onset, the tale releases its reader directly into the clutches of Jon's alternate universe, fraught with multidirectional danger and the dogged trailing of an ever-near despotic foe named Gargoran. While it is unclear how at first Jon has the ability to move through gateways, including ones that represent poignant moments in his worldly life and the commingling of what he remembers, what he is certain of is a future on both edges with little prospect of ending well. The parallels between fantasy and reality overlap as Jon experiences friendship in the bosom of a grueling hospital treatment, which transcends into true love with devastating consequences in the workings of his own mind.

Jon Ridley The Beginning is a good launching point for Andrew P Smith's forthcoming series. The book is a pretty straightforward fantasy with a character-driven plot, which Smith uses to segue Jon into a wide range of fast-moving sequences and the introduction of many different types of creatures. I did find the writing veered into a style that older readers might feel too juvenile for their liking, but teen readers and those who are comfortable with a more basic narrative will enjoy the focus Smith gives to dragons, hideous little 14-inch people, and a host of other creative roles. As for Jon's real-life struggles, there is an underlying theme of the mind's amazing ability to heal and it goes beyond the physical deterioration of “real” Jon, touching those around him and proving that love is the greatest healer of all. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but the author promises a second book is underway.