A terrifying force of darkness tears a couple of childhood friends apart, sparking a quest spanning three interconnected worlds in this sprawling debut fantasy novel.
Lloyd’s ambitious story invites readers into the kingdom of Aamora in the world of Arkenella, where a hero, Arrin, embarks on a quest to save a captured princess, Keira. His journey eventually takes him to the land of Rothden, a place he once believed only existed in dreams. There, he discovers the Dream Kingdom and assembles a group of warriors sworn to defeat the nefarious Kingdom Nightmare, who have captured Keira and unleashed a deadly plague throughout Rothden. Arrin’s companions include 15 soldiers from Himni, a mist-shrouded city in the center of a lake, as well as the Verndari, an elite group of five combatants from the Dream Kingdom armed with a mysterious force called “ijal.” Their quest takes them to the Well of Eternity, where they discover that Keira possesses her own formidable powers that could decide the fate of Rothden and the worlds connected to it. The story benefits from the intriguing central premise of a dreamscape made real. However, the novel, while heavy on plot, is unfortunately light on characterization. Early on, for example, Arrin spends months traversing caves, forests, and expansive lakes, and readers are told, rather than shown, that the love-struck adolescent has become a formidable warrior; more detail about Arrin’s first adventure might have given readers greater insight into his personality and motivations. Later, when the cast expands to include heroes from different towns and even different worlds, there are disappointingly few distinctions or compelling relationships between them. As a result, sudden deaths and changes of allegiance fail to produce the intended dramatic impact. The most memorable, enduring works of the fantasy genre immerse readers in detail about incredible fictional worlds, but this novel never quite manages to construct any of its settings convincingly. The hasty pacing throughout leaves far too much to readers’ imaginations, causing the story to feel more like a synopsis than an epic.
A broadly imagined tale, ultimately hamstrung by a lack of finer detail.