Catalyst Book 1 by Marc Johnson Book Review and Giveaway

Hi, Sher here, with the Summer Giveaway Hop from Bookhounds and I Am A Reader

I have a giveaway for
Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire, Book 1)

Coverdraft2For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.

Far from home, Alexandria’s princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsfire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess—and change the world.

Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possesses has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands.

Now Hellsfire must leave all he’s ever known, and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power—power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can’t, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse the land, destroying everyone he loves.

In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn…


Marc Johnson has moved a lot since his parents divorced when he was two. He also can’t answer a straight question and has developed a taste for sarcastic wit over the years. Probably also for the same reason.

He hasn’t won any awards, but he does have a deep knowledge of Transformers, Star Trek, and The Twilight Zone–his top three geeky loves. He writes because he loves stories and hopes to one day have written something successful as a movie, TV show, comic, book, magazine, and play.

Marc Johnson also loves to game, whether it be video, card, or board. He loves to test his mind in the challenges they bring…until the zombie, alien, or robot apocalypse comes.

Website                     Goodreads                      Facebook                  Twitter     

PLACES TO BUY: Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire, Book 1)

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Diesel Ebook     Kobo     Smashwords     Sony E-Reader

Oh, yes, I have a book review to go with the giveaway:

CatalystCatalyst by Marc Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hellsfire reminded me of some classic fantasies I read long ago, although in the coming of age vein it felt more like recent books. The story began when Hellsfire was fourteen and being bullied, partly because of that ridiculous name. Soon he discovered his gift for fire magic and rescued Princess Krystal of Alexandria, who makes a lasting impression. I liked his simple logic. “It was the right thing to do.”

What worked: Cynder was a real stinker when it came to getting Hellsfire in trouble, and I enjoyed the back and forth of that relationship. I just wanted more. When Hellsfire met the elves en route to Alexandria, I really enjoyed the story and the scenery through visuals that helped me feel like I was there. They were good before, but the forest and elves were outstanding. Although the plot proceeded somewhat predictably from there to Alexandria and on, including a wasteland with creatures invading at instigation of an evil wizard, once Hellsfire left to recruit dwarves for the war, I found more great imagery. I also enjoyed the interactions and Hellsfire’s struggling to control his talent and emotions. That and maturity should come in future books. The parts that had to happen didn’t seem derivative even though they felt familiar. You know that feeling of knowing something bad is going to happen? And then it does. That’s what kept me turning pages. The climax had one result I expected but most I didn’t.

What didn’t work as well: There’s a tedious journey near the beginning with real world problems: weather, hunger, and physical exhaustion. Not fantasy material. If only the poor horse could have talked. Or better yet, the dragon, Cynder, could have ventured forth instead of waiting for Hellsfire to arrive. Shouldn’t the wizard have expected and helped him, considering the prophecy? Then more close calls in training would have helped along with more explanation about the prophecies. It didn’t sense to keep the information from the person who most needed it. What you don’t know can hurt you a lot worse than what you do know, as evidenced by one of the close calls. Three years of training felt chopped short even though it’s a given the hero can’t be prepared before the crisis.

Overall: The book has a classic fantasy feel I’ve missed and really picked up and kept me interested throughout once Hellsfire started training. 3.5 stars. Would be a solid 4 if the beginning had less journey before training. Bonus points for completing the story arc when so many books end on cliffhangers. With Hellsfire, I felt satisfied and will be happy to read another. Future readers shouldn’t find as many mistakes since I sent the author my notes on most that snuck past editing. So if another review discouraged you on that count, go ahead and read. You’ll help another author succeed.

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Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. I enjoyed the review and think I would enjoy reading it. 🙂

    I prefer magic, creatures, battles, romance (in that order- although depending on the book romance and battles can be reversed).

  2. Thanks for sharing an awesome read it seems to be.. 😉 I like battles crime/discovery, magic, shapeshifting vamps and YA witches.. yep I’m a messed up one. 😉

    Valerie R
    vals_hemi at yahoo dot com

  3. Thanks so much for participating!

  4. Thanks for the kind review, Sher, and for the kind comments everyone.

    If any other book blogger wants a free copy of my book to review just drop me a line and I’ll give you one.

    Hope everyone enjoys my book!

  5. Romance, battles, magic, creatures. Or maybe magic then battles. I think it depends in my mood.


  6. Magic, creatures, romance, battles.

    Thanks for the amazing giveaway!
    elizabeth @ bookattict . com

  7. Creatures, romance, magic, battles. Thanks for sharing in the hop and your giveaway. evamillien at gmail dot com

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