In Luther’s debut mystical fantasy, a godlike wizard returns to the world he created and abandoned to impart wisdom on the misbehaving creatures he brought to life.
When Aldwyn returns to his world of Shiniva billions of years after he left, he discovers that, in his absence, the animals he brought to life have gone to war numerous times, tearing apart what was once a peaceful paradise. Rather than seeking a harsh punishment, however, he reaches into his magic bag full of countless stories he’s collected on his travels, and he decrees that, for education, the animals will have to listen to every one of them. The first story he pulls out is the tale of a strange traveling loner named Zaven, who arrives at the small town of Cedar Willow, where he’s met by suspicion. Soon afterward, an older man, Jeb, who owns an antique shop, offers Zaven shelter if he’ll take Jeb’s nephew Ivan on a short journey to retrieve a mysterious chest. After Zaven and Ivan locate and dig it up, an errant family of raccoons opens the chest while the two sleep. Out of the box comes an enchanted claw, which has the power to grant wishes, and the dark fairy collection proceeds from there. Luther crafts an evocative first novel with a tantalizing air of ancient mystery. To the story’s credit, it often reads as if it could have been passed down via the oral tradition from a long-distant society. Unfortunately, this also creates a distancing effect between the reader and the characters, who feel more like archetypal ciphers than flesh-and-blood people. Further, while Luther’s prose sometimes successfully conjures his intended atmosphere, it often lapses into overly forced metaphor and faux-poetic syntax: “Lew released the helmet and the helmet rolled. Neck, broken. Face, dead”; “The elderly husband fell like the eye of a flayed fish.”
A noble effort that strains for effortless poetry.