The book I received this time is Imperial Hostage by Phil Cantrill. Here's the description from the back cover:
From the moment 12-year-old Prince Erechtheus docks in Poseidia, capital of the Empire, to be a hostage for 13 years, nothing in his life is easy - or safe.
An unexpected and foreboding prophecy, uttered by a blind seer, puts the prince immediately in the crosshairs of Al-Jinn, the powerful and paranoid High Priest from the Temple of Bel. In a fit of perverse desperation, Al-Jinn and several other priests ravenously abuse Erech before placing him on an altar for ritual sacrifice to Lord Bel. Only last-minute intervention from Kul-Kan, High Priest of the rival Temple of One, saves the prince from a gruesome fate. At the Temple of One, although he remains a hostage, Erech is befriended by others his age as they are all educated in the Empire's arts and sciences. The Temple offers relative sanctuary, but the prince is repeatedly attacked. He survives with the help of his new-found friends and hand-to-hand combat training from Myriné, heir-apparent to the Queen of the Amazons.
Erech gains exceptional fighting skills and an understanding of the natural world as he matures, but he suffers a series of crippling, heart-breaking losses - most as a result of the many attempts on his life. At the twilight of his captivity as a hostage, the 25-year-old prince encounters one last trial, a trial that could very well lead to war between his native land and the Empire.
Now onto the review. This was a book that was a bit slow to get into at first; from the beginning we're thrown in with a group of evil priests who kidnap and try to harm the main character, who at the time was a kid. This was... jarring, to say the least, especially since it was in the same chapter as events happening elsewhere to a different character. I stuck with it, though, and soon the book really did pick up and the plot lines all tied together. The evil priests were still the antagonists, but the hero prevails, although at some cost.
The only real problem I had with the book was the names. Ye gads, I couldn't recall who anyone was because most of them had short, hyphenated names. Thank goodness there was a glossary in the back, but I don't really like having to keep flipping back to that as I read. Eventually I just started going by context to figure out who was who. I just wish the author had developed some of the characters more; I think that would have helped with my inability to remember names. The main ones were pretty well developed, but the secondary ones could have used a bit more fleshing out.
This is a young adult book, but there are some things a bit iffy about that which might bother younger readers. It's pretty much inferred that the protagonist was raped as a child. There's also a lot of mention of sex, which surprised me in a YA book.
Overall, though, I really did enjoy this book! The story was good, it was well-written, and the characters were interesting even if some of them weren't as fleshed out as I would have liked. I enjoyed the fact that the book spanned about thirteen years because it was neat getting to see the main characters grow up and face different challenges. The author did well at letting the reader know just how much time had passed, which is good because that could have been a confusing problem.
I'll stick with this series and read the next one when it comes out. I'll give this 4 stars out of 5. I think the author definitely has great potential; this is his first published book, so I'm thinking the next will be even better.