"The First Mother's Fire", Book One of the new fantasy series "The Soulstealer War" by W.L. Hoffman, is a novel that was difficult to put down and is now proving impossible to shake. Certain books crawl inside you and take up residence for varying times and am guessing that this one is in for an extended stay. The novel is essentially a philosophy book that uses the genre of fantasy/sci-fi to present its queries, questions, thoughts and ideas. The protagonist, Ken McNary, provides the reader with an equal amount of ideas and theories as well as questions and queries. Thrust into an alternate but connected world, McNary struggles to make sense of his new environment while struggling with ancient questions regarding one's purpose, relation to the earth and environment, religion, and the origin, use and cost of true power. What is truly amazing about "The First Mother's Fire" is that Hoffman is able to present such weighty subject matter via an epic fantasy storyline with plenty of action and pacing. The philosophical subject matter is given its due deference but does not weigh down the story or the adventure into which the reader is transported. Rather, the questions and thoughts of McNary are natural parts of the strange experience in which he finds himself. Hoffman is clearly well-versed in the genre. One notes his respectful nod to the master Tolkien early in the novel with Ken's introduction to Hala echoing Frodo's introduction to Lembas. But Hoffman's book is far from a recycling of well-worn fantasy characters and plots as he takes the reader down refreshingly original and untrodden paths. The release of Book Two in the "The Soulstealer War" will be a welcomed date for this reader.