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A review of Chuck Powell’s ‘Qintessa’

Chuck Powell’s debut novel, “Qintessa,” centers around a young girl raised to be an assassin by her father in a post-apocalyptic world following America’s collapse after another world war.

A world government known as the Peacekeepers has established rule following the conflict. The Peacekeepers consist of five leaders, one of whom has been assassinated by the mysterious Pearl.

Powell takes readers on a journey to uncover the identity of the Pearl and find out what the elusive assassin’s plans are as the surviving world leaders scramble for safety and send their own assassin teams to seek out the Pearl.

Of course, Qintessa is right in the middle of it all. So is the Underground, where many of Powell’s characters live off the grid away from the prying eyes of government.

Part “1984,” part “Back to the Future,” “Qintessa” is a fast-pace read. Powell promises readers a, “unique exploration into the fine line that exists between good and evil.” In other words, good and evil, like most aspects of life, aren’t simply black and white. Life is often grey — and many shades of it.

Powell’s characters are true to this. Many are both heroic and tragic. Idealistic and flawed. And this is what makes his novel special. In his characters ,there are traits to admire and despise, making them complex and human.

An example is the gun runner known as the Irishman. He sells and helps transport guns illegally. A noble cause, if he were solely trying to help overthrow the totalitarian Peacekeepers. But, as smooth and likeable as he is, the Irishman is selfishly flawed, making the reader question whether rooting for him is the proper choice.

The same goes for some of the other central players in “Qintessa.” The Peacekeepers have brought the world back from the brink, installing a government that keeps an ever-watchful eye on their citizens. They abuse their power at the expense of freedom, often to create even more wealth for themselves while they continually manage to keep every beauty pageant contestant’s favorite answer, “world peace.”

At the same time in the Underworld, the very freedom that is so missing from Powell’s post-war world and that so many characters covet is also abused. Again, it’s these grey areas Powell explores that make “Qintessa” so interesting and worth reading.

He said this wasn’t an “easy” novel to read. He’s right. Those complexities in the themes and the characters are what truly make “Qintessa” stand out. It’s unique and it’s impressive, especially given this is Powell’s first novel. He takes us right up until the end when we find out Qintessa’s fate. It’s worth the wait, all 89 chapters and 408 pages.

Coincidentally, in nature, pearls sometimes take years to form. Powell said his first novel did too. Fitting that his debut novel, “Qintessa,” turned out to be a gem.