Title: Riven Calyx
Author: Mark Leon Collins
This story explores magic, religion, and one’s social expectations while following the first quest of Mordrak, newly welcomed as a knight of the prestigious Brotherhood of Vali. Mordrak finds himself haunted by seven youthful wraiths he killed while helping his king conquer a fortified city. The king and many others are equally suffering, and Mordrak is sent to find a wizard who can help remove the curse.
Mordrak’s diplomatic position is fraught with difficulty, though, as his king was responsible for outlawing wizards in the first place. Mordrak must find a wizard and gain his trust while maintaining his own sanity…and yet, he can’t help but wonder that wizards might’ve orchestrated the haunting and gloom in the first place, just to find their way back into society.
The characters in this tale are nicely diverse, and while most of the book is spent following Mordrak’s plight as he struggles with the wraiths’ curses and taunting, readers also get a chance to see things from the point of view of Mordrak’s sister and three different wizards, some young, some older, each with his own hopes and feelings toward Mordrak and his quest.
The descriptions are beautifully crafted, letting readers picture the world of the story with all its sights, smells, and textures, and while this can be a touch gruesome when Mordrak is fighting some of the creatures he encounters, it offers a memorable glimpse into what is a rich, imaginative realm. Many times, the narration is poignant and powerful, and while there are moments where the characters’ viewpoints feels a bit self-conscious and overly contemplative, this seems to fit the characters and how they look at the world.
The plot moves steadily rather than quickly, giving readers ample time to look around the world and appreciate the nuances of the characters’ problems, from the wizards’ plight of trying to prove that they’re not behind the hauntings to Mordrak’s ongoing challenges in working alongside them. What many authors might’ve considered minor threads, like Mordrak’s struggles against the king’s brother’s advances or his sister’s fate in a patriarchal society, are given space to flourish in this novel, enriching the story by showing the complexity of the human condition, even in a fantasy realm.
The book could use further editing polish in places, as there were a number of comma splices and oddly duplicated contractions, and some readers might prefer the characters to think less, showing their worries and fears in a more direct manner. The story can seem to take a while to find its footing, but this could be argued as mirroring the characters’ own journeys as they work out their places in the world.
Offering an unusual fantasy blend with thoughtful characters who must fight their own battles, inside and out, Riven Calyx depicts strong characters who deeply explore their positions in society and in relation to each other. The story is complete while clearly establishing plot threads for the future, giving the sensation that this world will go on and this was just one window into the characters’ time and trials. Complex and intricate while maintaining its believability, readers of classic fantasy will relish this adventure.
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