The Anointed (Red Proxy #3)

Write on: Thu, 07 Mar 2019 by  in Archive Read 4389

The Anointed is one of 2018's #SPFBO's ten finalists; this is BookNest's official score for the competition.

I’ll say it out front: I did not enjoy my time with Keith Ward’s The Anointed. That’s not to say the book doesn’t have merits – there is an imaginative quality about the setting of this novel, a world in which nothing floats on water, where people know their lifespan nearly from the moment of their birth (or their ‘Span’, as used in the novel), and where that same Span can be transferred to another at the cost of the transferrer’s life. The cover is also pretty damn neat!


The characters didn’t hold any appeal for me. There are many of them with their own points of view, chief among which a powerful family of dragon Ranchers, but also a girl from a magically isolated community called Greengrass, a mad king by the name of DuQuall, his wife, and a number of other minor characters. The characterisation of most of these fell flat for me; reading the novel, I found myself placing each of the characters in ready-made boxes and drawing a roadmap of where they would end up by the novel’s close. The villain of the piece is more interesting than the heroes; he comes across as such an over-the-top bad guy in the PoVs of Plyonia, his wife, and Jiixe, his closest advisor, that it’s hard not to look forward to what dastardly deed he will next perform. He’s quite literally the sort of villain that’ll squeeze the life-force out of his new-born children to increase his ‘Span’, and that’s mildly entertaining in a twisted, roundabout way.

The main 'hero', the title Anointed is one of the most unlikable, entitled brats whose growth comes at the expense of another character, in two problematic scenes which could be well-served by an essay of their own. For the titled-character, Xinlas also gets too little time; and that is the case for just about everyone. This book juggles more characters than it can handle, and it suffers for it.

The prose is bare and unadorned, with descriptions and dialogue both suffering greatly as a result. Even competent scenes are bogged down by dialogue riddled with inconsistencies; for example, when addressing his people, King DuQuall turns to them by calling them “fellow citizens”. Now, I could chalk this up to oratory strategy, but it’s far from the only example I came across.

Certain words and phrases immediately serve to sever my connection to an imaginary world, and The Anointed has far too many of these. Phrases like “That’s OK”, “fondness deficit,” and others don’t belong in what I think of as the universe of discourse of fantasy novels. I’m stealing that term from semantics, for the record, but I promise not to abuse it. At any rate, certain authorial choices in The Anointed overstepped those boundaries in a way that actively harmed the credibility of this fictional world. Especially jarring was the following paragraph, with its bizarre choice to use the 'equal' sign:

"Yes, it was true. He was that man... that boy. A boy of simple What I want = good, what I don't want  = bad impulses.

His father, though. His father was a man. A man.

My biggest issue with this novel is, it lacks depth. What should be significant social processes get overturned by singular events. Characters don’t read as real but come across as cardboard cut-outs doing only what is necessary to forward a meandering plot that takes on more threads than it can handle, ultimately leaving several of the introduced storylines hanging.

There are some interesting ideas here, as I said to begin with. To many they may tip this novel towards a higher grade but for me, they’re nowhere near captivating enough to off-set the bad. To that end, my final score for The Anointed is a 3/10. 

Last modified on Thursday, 07 March 2019 17:56
Filip Magnus

Filip picked up his first fantasy novel when he was seven and hasn’t stopped reading since. A critical reader who judges novels on their technical use of language and plot alike, he has a soft spot for literary fiction and tragic, heroic tales.

In his free time, Filip writes fiction, makes gaming reviews on YouTube, and maintains a personal blog. All that when he’s not too busy going through piles of books in as short a time as possible.