Keepers of the Forest, by James McNally has a good plot and interesting characters. When Chris is chosen by Crispus Attuck Brown to be the Chosen One, a summer spent with Scott and Chris’ aunt and uncle takes an unexpected turn, and Chris’ swim instructor, Brian is the only who realizes something is amiss. Brian must find a way to save the two brothers and foil Brown’s evil plot to destroy the world.
Brian is a young man who is afraid of commitment and perhaps drinks a little too much. He befriends a young boy, Chris, who is a sweet kid that falls into unfortunate circumstance and becomes the victim of an evil plot. Other players on the good guy’s team are Chris’s older brother, Scott, an angry teen who works through his own issues and story arc, and Brian’s bartender friend, Nancy who has her stuff together and acts as support for Brian as he works through his personal issues and becomes the hero. One of the most colorful characters unfortunately, has only a supporting role and isn’t really involved in any of the action. Nancy’s aunt, Leah, the balding swim instructor with cancer is a strong character, and I would have liked to see more of her.
The villain, Crispus Attuck Brown is an interesting chap, who believes he can bring about the second coming of the Dryad, and he’s gathering the Keepers of the Forest to that end. I think if we’d seen more of how bad he is sooner, it would’ve helped us to fear him more. At his side is an ex-hooker named Sherry, who is a misguided pawn in Brown’s game until she removes the blinders and realizes what is really going on around her. The big guy, Mason, is the muscle for the operation. He is feared because of his size, but is shown to have a soft heart. The crew is rounded out by two gay ex-cons, Ted and Vincent, who are cold blooded killers, who kill because they like it and almost seem more to be feared than Brown.
I had a couple of problems with Keepers of the Forest. First, McNally does a bit of head hopping, which makes it confusing to the reader as to whose P.O.V. we are in at times. And second, the characters all have such clear insight into their own motivations that they can self-analyze and express exactly what they are feeling and their motivations verbally. There isn’t a lot of subtext, and real people just don’t do that.
The other thing that just didn’t sit quite right with me, was the fact that the good guys save the day, but they are lead to the solution by Sherry, after she comes to the realization that her beliefs in Brown are faulty. Brian becomes a passive protagonist, in a way, because although he has a part in saving the boys, the rescue is led by a member of the opposing side, turned defector and he just does what he is told. For me, all the characters have the potential to be really great characters, but most of them fall short of what they could be.
I give Keepers of the Forest three quills.