Allison's Book Bag

The Exile by Eric Buffington

Posted on: August 29, 2014

At the heart of The Exile, a clean fantasy aimed at middle-school boys, is four boys coming of age and a community tradition. When Buffington focuses on the boys, I found myself drawn into his imagined world of Denall. Intertwined is a plot involving a corrupt magician named Lord Mordyar who is searching for the stones of power. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to the latter, The Exile has some outstanding stylistic flaws.

The Exile contains two intriguing elements. First, there is the tradition whereby when a boy reaches the age of seventeen, he must leave the village for a year (or four seasons) to prove his manhood. Although families often break the rule, no advice is to be given on the day of departure, nor are the boys to stash food outside of the village to find on their journey. One of my favorite scenes is where Bendar buries three piles of supplies, the first with the idea not only that it would be found and removed but that it also would trick his parents into not searching for further stashes. His parents instead left the stockpile untouched, figuring now Bendar would have to determine what loot he should carry with him and what he should leave behind.

Second, there are the powers which every individual has. Some have developed keener sense of sight than normal, others hearing, some knowledge, and still others strength. All of these can be used to their advantage to help them survive, but when combined with a stone of power can result in magical capabilities. In the case of our characters, Kaz is the one who receives the stone of sight. It enables him to shoot arrows at distances far greater than any other man. How he finds the stone makes for a memorable scene. He almost discards it, because it comes in the form of a woman’s necklace.

Intriguing as those elements are, it’s the four boys which give heart to The Exile. The journey which the four boys take together has different effects on them. For example, Garin will leave behind a girl, and so is eager to just be done with the whole ordeal. His brother, in contrast, has no allegiances and is your typical teen who can’t wait to leave home and never return. As for the other two boys, one is well-liked by all while the other is more of an outcast, and I enjoyed how Buffington used their exile adventures to develop them into complex characters. Kaz might seem like the traditional popular boy, but has quirks such as knowing how to knit. Bendar might seem like the traditional nerd, but when his calculated plans fail he makes sacrifices for the group.

Unfortunately, The Exile has some stylistic flaws which are impossible to ignore. One of them, that of telling the story from multiple points of view, is most annoying at the start. While introducing the main characters, Buffington not only delineates their feelings about their upcoming journey but that of each of their set of parents. Further on, Buffington thankfully only switches viewpoints with new chapters and new scenes. Another flaw mostly arises during the scenes not involving our main characters. Here, he often summarizes events, which has the effect of distancing me from the story. Sometimes as Buffington writes about the delivery or discovery of the stones, I even feel confused.

The flaws effect enough of The Exile that I found the opening scene to be slow and occasional subsequent chapters to be dull. At times, I felt tempted to discontinue reading The Exile. The four boys save the story, however. Eventually, I also found myself enjoying the story of the thieving P, a female who comes into Kaz’s life. On these latter merits, I’m recommending The Exile.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


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