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Publisher's Summary

For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.

Far from home, Alexandria's princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsfire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess - and change the world.

Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possesses has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands.

Now Hellsfire must leave all he's ever known and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power - power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can't, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse the land, destroying everyone he loves.

In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn....

©2013 Marc Johnson (P)2016 Marc Johnson

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Hellsfire - a unique name for a hero!

Northern Shala is kept save from the monsters of the Wastelands by the Kingdom of Alexandria. But that kingdom may be in trouble. Hellsfire, a young lad in a small village, rescues Crystal, the princess of Alexandria, and earns a reward. However, he also gained the knowledge that he must now leave his sleepy little village and find a way to master his wild magic.

Hellsfire is the chosen one, but the details are all fuzzy to start with. Years ago, a mysterious man arrived in a winter storm just as Hellsfire’s mother was giving birth to him. This mysterious man is responsible for Hellsfire’s unusual name. Part of me likes the name but part of me wonders why his mom didn’t give him a nickname or even a common middle name that he could choose to go by. He’s teased and bullied constantly in the village and his odd name is just one more thing to draw unwanted attention to him.

One day, Hellsfire sees a young woman (which turns out to be Crystal) being chased by 3 armed men in the woods and he interferes. Fire launches from Hellsfire and takes out the men, which surprises everyone, especially Hellsfire. Crystal rewards him with a bag of coin. He tells his mom who takes it as a sign that he is ready to head out to the mountain where it is always winter. So, Hellsfire goes, facing down the lead bully one last time on the road out of town (hooray!). Eventually, he has to eat his horse, it’s so cold (so sad).

He finds a cave near the top of the mountain where there’s a dragon who takes great glee in chasing him about. Eventually Hellsfire runs into Stratis (an aged wizard), who is friends with the dragon. Stratis sees the potential in the lad and offers to train him. Of course, those with knowledge have to be all mystical and mysterious about it all, never telling Hellsfire why he shouldn’t do this or that and that leads to dangerous situations. Not my favorite plot device at all. On the other hand, this is where we start to get the scope of the land. Stratis gives Hellsfire a well-rounded education – potions, fire magic, hunt and seek with the dragon, book learning, languages, physical training, herbology, etc. While the info dump on how magic works is a bit tedious (Hellsfire is not a swift learner), we also get some history (which I quite enjoyed). There was a big epic wizard war perhaps a thousand years ago which did quite a bit of damage and that is why there are few wizards now and also why many people and cultures look on wizardry with suspicion.

After a significant amount of time has passed, Hellsfire must leave and he feels he must assist the Alexandrian princess. Elves and Dwarves get pulled into play, along with another wizard and at least 1 ogre. There’s some political maneuvering, daring rescues, and a worthy battle at the end.

There are few female characters until the last quarter of the book where the Dwarves come into play. Apparently the Dwarves are a bit ahead of the times and have female leaders and women guards and such. Hooray! Crystal is OK as the main female character/love interest. She does get to show off her sword skills a little in the final big battle, but she also gets knocked unconscious more than once and has to be rescued. Still, it’s mostly a boy’s tale about a boy saving the kingdom.

For a standard fantasy tale, it was still pretty entertaining. I enjoyed Hellsfire and all his anger management issues. He’s a good lad at heart and that wins over the audience no matter how many mistakes he makes. This story leaves the door open for a sequel and I expect the next book will up the epic level.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

Narration: Bryan Zee was only OK. He didn’t have many distinct character voices; at first you can tell he’s trying but by the middle, it just all sounds like the same voice. Plus he has this nasal quality to several words in his native accent that bleeds through into every character voice. Towards the end, there were some mouth noises as well (not many) where there weren’t any for the majority of the book. Zee did do a great job of getting the character’s emotions across to the listener.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • ORLAND PARK, IL, United States
  • 05-11-16

Great!

Would you listen to Catalyst again? Why?

Yes, this was a great book. Its only detracting factor is it's narrator. The ending was great. The final battle lasted over an hour and was awesome.

Who was your favorite character and why?

HELLSFIRE! He really matured throughout the book and grew into ..... a wizard.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator was very monotone, but I was still able to enjoy it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBoom dot com.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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predictable

predictable elves, dwarfs, goblin and trools. throw in a princess and a dragon. the story uses characters time history and age to add depth.. the main character develops all thru this story and almost appears dim unless with the princess

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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narrator is to bland

somewhat interesting storyline but the narrator is killing it. there's no emotion no involvement on his part. sad too, might have been better with a different narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Common storyline with great twists, characters

NARRATOR

I have to say I was surprised when I heard Bryan Zee. The accent and general tone of his voice seemed so much more innocent and . . . young? . . . than I expected Hellsfire to be. It gave me an image of someone resembling Eragon's little brother, if he'd had one.

His voice was clear and easy to listen to, and after a while, I got used to Bryan as Hellsfire. When Hellsfire's wizard side of it all started to surface, and he became the student later seeking to save the world, I found myself content that Bryan was that voice to help me create the image of Hellsfire. It was an interesting match, and it took me a while to get used to it, but I did, and I think Marc Johnson chose well.

Bryan Zee didn't change his dialect or inflection or anything when other characters were speaking, but that didn't hurt the story. Sometimes, it made the switching dialogue difficult to discern between speakers, but it was fine overall.

STORYLINE

Catalyst makes the hero story an adventure that can easily be appreciated. While it offers unique elements such as a historical war that creates monsters of once-before allies, it brings together elves, dwarves, dragons, and humans with a wizard whose powers are well past his ability to control. But, he has to do it because the villain isn't waiting for him to finish learning, and he has a prophecy to fulfill.

The great thing about this story, aside from Hellsfire, is the prophecy. Most classic hero books reveal the prophecy toward the beginning or at least make it something that is within reach. While Hellsfire does address the idea of the prophecy, it's not that important to him. Just like it is for the readers, the prophecy is a question lingering in the back of his mind, but it's not his goal to discover what it is and why he's part of it. The prophecy will be fulfilled, and the readers will find out what it is, but what's more important is the ride Hellsfire is taking us on because his character drives it forward.

As I listened, I kept hearing the same word really close together. A few phrases were repetitive, too, such as "It ached to be released." That one, in particular, caught my attention, as often as I heard it. There were many times throughout the read that I found myself getting distracted and trying to think of better ways to rephrase something or different words to use so the sentences didn't sound the same.

This was a minor problem, but it was a bit distracting, and it made the narrative a little duller than it might have been. Even for a main character's voice, it didn't fit. It wasn't something that seemed intentional, so I can only assume the repetitive words were simply overlooked.

OVERALL LIKES

I enjoyed the steady flow of the story. Hellsfire saves the princess from a small matter, and it's such a minor moment (though huge at the time) despite the fact that she's a princess. I found the twist in significance to be refreshing, and I found it more refreshing when she wasn't useless. More than that, she was ridiculously dedicated to her kingdom, revealing her own strong character.

OVERALL DISLIKES

I wasn't a fan of the villain mostly because I don't understand him. He seems to be a convenient villain, one who is hungry for power just for the sake of it, and I'm hoping that he becomes more understandable later.

I didn't enjoy how "easy" it was for Hellsfire to win. While the battle itself was fantastic, it still didn't make sense that someone with his lack of experience could beat a wizard of that magnitude, even if he had help and he didn't truly beat him. I think, depending on how things go in the future, this will be addressed. It helps that the villain wasn't truly beaten.

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  • Reg
  • McKinney, TX
  • 10-05-16

Go Hellsfire!

Hellsfire is a 14 year old boy who has been brought up by a loving mother to always do the right thing. It doesn't matter if the right thing is saving a younger boy from getting beat up by the town bullies only to get beat up himself or going up against ruffians who are chasing a young girl through the forest. Once Hellsfire meets Princess Crystal, his whole life changes. He discovers a gift he didn't know he possessed and sets out to learn how to use it by leaving his mother's small farm house and traveling to the top of a brutal mountain through sheer determination. But he doesn't forget the Princess.

When Hellsfire has a vision about Princess Crystal and the city of Alexandria, which are the only things standing between Shala and the wastelands, he leaves his training sanctuary against his master's wishes to help her. Is his vision true? Can he get to the Princess in time? Is there anything he can do to help Crystal and Alexandria? He doesn't know, but he WILL help the Princess who has captured his heart.

I liked this story. It is not that original and there aren't a lot of twists and turns in this first book in the Hellsfire series but something about it caught my attention almost at once and I found myself eager to continue to listen each day. It is well written and Hellsfire is a compelling character. He does the right thing and helps whenever and wherever he can. Doing the right thing is sometimes painful and takes him places he really doesn't want to go but he does it anyway. The Princess calls him 'Hero' and he is, at that. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

To be frank, my heart sank when I was 5 minutes into this book and heard the narration by Bryan Zee. I thought it was going to be a chore to get through this listen. However, I was quickly drawn into the story and began to enjoy the cadence of his reading (for reading it was) and the lilt of his accent. He has a pleasant tone to his voice and I ended the story enjoying his narration very much and hope that Marc Johnson sticks with him for the series.

I received this audiobook for free through Audiobook Boom! in exchange for an honest review.

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A Young Man's Quest

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

YES, Very much so

Who was your favorite character and why?

HELLSFIRE! He really matured throughout the book and grew into ..... a wizard

What does Bryan Zee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator was terrific, did not read the book

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBoom dot com

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Could have been better

Any additional comments?

I must admit that if I had read the book, I would have rated it higher. The narrator was very flat. He really took me out of the story. I received this audiobook for free through Audiobook Boom for my unbiased review.

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CATALYST has a terrific narrator

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~ I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

What an absolutely stunning cover. In fact, it was the cover that drew me to this audiobook. The description cemented my desire to listen.

So, did this audiobook live up to my expectations?

Yes and No.

The plot was your typical fantasy, coming-of-age adventure where the ordinary boy turns out to have extraordinary powers.

There are (of course) elves, dwarves, ogres, wizards, a beautiful princess and even a dragon. There is also the prerequisite evil wizard who is hell-bent on taking over the world.

I admit that the main character in this book certainly has a unique name. His name is "Hellsfire." I was extremely skeptical of such an odd name choice when I started listening to this audiobook, but it actually works. As the story goes on you get used to the name and it eventually sounds completely natural as the lead character's name. This is largely due to the excellent narration by Bryan Zee.

When Hellsfire discovers that he has the gift of fire magic, he knows that he will need to learn to control it. He sets out a quest to do just that.

During his quest he meets several interesting characters and becomes embroiled in an epic battle to save his world.

This plot is overdone. There are literally thousands of books that consist of this same storyline; of course the details, characters and settings are always different, but readers and/or listeners can easily predict what will happen. I hate that. I like to be surprised and unfortunately this audiobook's storyline did not contain any surprises.

The ending of this book sets up the story for the second book in the series, however, I felt that the author took some large liberties to expand the story into a series.

The narrator was terrific. He emotes very well and he did an admirable job of trying to keep the listener engaged in the story. I give the narration 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

However, I rate this book as 3.5 out of 5 stars.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I am hoping that the second audiobook in this series contains the unexpected plot twists that were missing in CATALYST.

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Average book with lots of potential

This book has a lot of potential but didn't meet my expectations. Part of it may have been I never got truly engaged with the book because of the narrator. I didn't think it was a good fit. This does seem to be a YA series and I wasn't expecting it to be.




This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of Audiobook Blast

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  • Tony Bough
  • 06-14-16

An interesting new series

What did you like best about Catalyst? What did you like least?

I liked the main character. You see his journey to fulfil the prospect of what he will become. He's a good main character. Occasionally, especially at first, a littl too cocky.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Catalyst?

The start goes well. Hellfire's discovery of why he's different.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Bryan Zee?

Yes. I enjoyed the narration.

Do you think Catalyst needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Yes. I want to see where we are going with Hellfire.

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBoom dot com.