The recent success of major fantasy series (most notably Harry Potter) has been responsible for a fresh proliferation of various epics that have caused a renewed interest in the fantasy genre. This may account for James Treadwellís Advent, the first installment in a new trilogy. Treadwell experiments with various techniques to construct a fantasy that encroaches upon the reality of modern-day life through conventional fantasy themes including magic and adventure.
The narrative alternates between the life of a 16th-century magician and a modern-day teenager. The crux of the novel occurs when the intrusion of past events affects the reality of the present for the main character, fifteen-year-old Gavin. Gavinís character is complicated, and his presentation is one of the storyís few strengthsóhe suffers the emotional turmoil of adolescence compounded by a supernatural presence. Gavin is haunted by a woman whom only he can see or hear. The blend of teenage feelings of isolation with supernatural phenomenon works well, but such a concept lacks originality and, despite being well-written, fails to create a well-defined perception of the main character as a hero. This is partly because Gavin struggles with his own identity, but there is a sense of his progress as the story proceeds.
Gavinís problems lead his parents to send him to live with his aunt, forcing a sort of exile that lays the foundation for a quest. His auntís absence upon his arrival spawns a series of events that force introspection from Gavin, furthering the development of his character as well as the discovery of ancient secrets. Once again, the reader is exposed to the gradual blending of fantasy and reality, but the novelís pacing is frustrating due to its excessively slow plot. The events take a remarkably long time to happen, and while Gavin contacts others like him and discovers the truth about various occurrences, the days are packed with a lot of unnecessary detail. This gives the story a soap-opera like feel, so much so that the reader can almost visualize a cinematic adaptation that would feature long dramatic pauses and close-ups after every line of dialogue. In contrast, the ending is frantic with many events occurring at once, and this creates an irony in that everything develops agonizingly slow and concludes in a rush. This gives a sense of realism to otherwise fantastical events, but readers are likely to be confused by the pacing.
As the novel continues, an interesting aspect is revealed: the story draws upon various other works, creating interesting parallels to King Arthur and incorporating material from the Faust plays. This adds an interesting literary component to the fantasy epic, but as with most of the story, unfortunately these elements are not presented with any real dramatic flair. Instead, the literary references suffer from sudden insertion without clear explanation. This dulls the ability of these literary elements to be of interest, and the story suffers from what the incorporation of too many such references. There is also the usual share of magical and mythical creatures that no fantasy epic would be complete without, but Treadwell presents most of these beings with ambiguous allegiances. The result is an uncertainty adding to the readerís confusion through to the novelís end.
Since Advent is the first of an intended trilogy, many of the unresolved plot threads and unclear character presentations may be deliberate. This technique may intend to create suspense and evoke reader curiosity enough so that they will pursue the series in desire of purpose. However, if resolution is to follow, it is unfortunately at the expense of this first novel. The setup is so painstakingly constructed as to become dull. It is not enough to use myth and magic and assume that readers will be interested solely based on topic matter. The presentation of those themes remains lacking for too long, and when those elements do finally appear, they are muddled and not nearly as interesting as they should be. The result is a lack of any sort of wonder from readers, who are bound to desire resolution but be willing to put forth the effort or additional costs of money and time to care.