Many years after a devastating battle, Clans on a distant planet may be preparing for another conflict in this launch of a fantasy series.
There are eight Clans on the planet Jahanet. This opening installment zeros in on four of them, all residing on Jahanet’s largest Domain, Icka. In the present day, three members of Clan Adeian—Draka, Yar, and Scarra—ride separately to the ruins of Lord Matoca’s Kazar (castle). Years ago, Matoca, in an apparent power play, initiated an attack against Clan Veloian. But when Clans Dekam and Arkarian aligned with Veloian, the Adeians lost what came to be known as the Great Battle. Though Matoca called the current meeting with Draka, Yar, and Scarra, no one has seen him since the Great Battle and most people even assume he is dead. Draka first joined Clan Adeian as a bondservant (slave) but has since become a warrior. He has a fondness for Scarra, a woman who’s always shown him kindness, but abhors Yar, who calls him “half-breed” (Draka evidently has the face of an Adeian and build of an Arkarian). But once it’s clear that Matoca is planning to ignite a second battle among the Clans, Draka wonders whether he’ll be able to trust anyone. Smellie (David and the Wizard, 2011) scrupulously details life on Jahanet in this novella. This sets an unhurried pace, with comprehensive descriptions of geography, customs, and terminology, such as cycles (years) and high rock (mountain). Recurrent flashbacks to the Great Battle, however, are often exciting and intense, even if they’re too brief. There are likewise captivating creatures, from Lentars, giant flying beasts with sharp teeth and tails, to the six-legged Zaruses that people ride like horses. While the dialogue is a mix of contemporary and archaic (primarily “thou” or its variations), it’s occasionally stilted. For example, Draka wonders, “What art thou up to, Matoca?” while in some instances “thou” is grammatically incorrect (“What happened to thou?”).
A slow but steady introduction to an indelible world.