(This review contains some spoilers.)
This book’s description does not do it justice. Mark Murphy’s The Curse of the Thrax is a well developed, often humorous, yet somewhat deep fantasy story about 14-year-old Jaykriss and his best friend and cousin, Marda.
Jaykriss goes through many challenges as a young teenager. After the death of his father, he must protect his mother and sister, go hunting regularly for his village, and defend himself from attacks—all while going through puberty and falling in love for the first time.
All of the characters in The Curse of the Thrax are deeply developed, so it’s easy to know their motivations. A couple chapters reminded me of the Avatar: The Last Airbender storytelling techniques, which had stories within stories to provide the characters with lessons they’ll need to survive.
However, the story, though entertaining, often felt abrupt. Each chapter is jam-packed with high stakes and action. But then the chapter wraps up and the next chapter easily moves to a new section of the story, often breezing over potential issues and hardships the characters endured or were worried about in the previous chapter.
That said, Mark Murphy still manages to weave in some philosophical questions throughout the book. For example, most of the characters in the story believe in the gods, and look to the priests for help when they pray to the gods. But one so-called traitor and outlaw, Zamarcus, is a scientist, who freely shares his knowledge so others can make smart decisions based on knowledge. Interestingly, though Zamarcus is a scientist and firmly believes in science, he also reconciles science with religion.
Murphy also writes some touching and very realistic dialogue and interaction between Jaykriss and his girlfriend, Sola. They are adorable, though it’s hard to imagine that Jaykriss could so easily focus on his mission with Marda early on in the story and hardly think about Sola, especially after recently kissing her for the first time. It also doesn’t help that he’s a 14-year-old boy.
Still, there is not a dull moment in the book, and Murphy has set up an intriguing, complex world. World building is always a complicated task, but The Curse of the Thrax has an extra layer of complexity, because Murphy seems to blend traditional fantasy genre details—such as having priests, a Godswood, and fantastical creatures—with elements of dystopian novels and playful nods to modern times.
For example, one of the most feared and misunderstood cities used to be known as Atlanta Transit Authority. And after man’s downfall, humans forgot about their pasts, including their knowledge of medicine and technology, and started living simpler lives and believing in magic.
Overall, The Curse of the Thrax is an entertaining and fairly quick read. If you like fantasy, magic, science, and tales of underdogs fighting to right wrongs, then I highly recommend this first book in the Bloodsword Trilogy. The fight scenes alone are epic. I look forward to when the next two books in the series are out.