A good story puts its main character into ever-increasing conflict, and the fantasy novel Persona: Stratus the Reborn wastes no time doing exactly that.
In the opening pages, teenager Raj (a.k.a. Stratus) investigates his parents’ death at the hands of gang members and confronts the gang’s leader. A few pages later, beings from another planet join the conflict. A few pages after that, Stratus is on that planet. And a few pages after that–just 22 pages into the novel–Stratus discovers he’s the reincarnation of that alien planet’s warrior king.
The breakneck pacing, akin to that of a comic book, actually is one of the better aspects of Persona. Author Harry G. Mohan is skilled at delivering exposition–especially given the massive amounts of backstory in the early chapters. Persona eschews soporific descriptions of landscapes or history in favor of story and characterization.
That story is serviceable but derivative. It feels like the work of a young, growing talent -– a sense confirmed by the author’s bio, which notes that Mohan graduated high school this year. That fact also provides a possible explanation for why the dialogue and storytelling are a bit juvenile in the book’s early chapters but improve as it continues. The book seems to be maturing right along with its author.
Though Persona has flaws, it’s quite readable at that comic-book level. The author grounds Stratus’s battles against (and alongside) a variety of warriors with a solid emotional undercurrent, showing off a wealth of imagination. It’s also a clean read, with very few grammatical issues. Mohan has delivered a solid achievement for a first novel, and hopefully it won’t be his last.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.