In Close’s debut novel, the first in a new epic fantasy series, a young apprentice to the king’s bard suddenly finds himself going to the royal court with his master due to a number of strange occurrences.
After Calvraign’s father died saving the king’s life, King Guillaume gave his rescuer’s son the honor of being trained by his bard, Brohan. For years, Brohan taught him stories of chivalry and prophecy and trained him in battle strategy and politics, preparing him for adulthood at court. Soon after dark forces begin to rise in the kingdom, Brohan brings Calvraign—at his mother’s behest—to the king, and they’re followed by Callagh, a feisty young huntress whose fierce skills are matched only by her love for Calvraign. Over the course of the novel, Close weaves an epic tale involving a huge cast of characters, including other knights, villains and supernatural creatures, cutting among various points of view in a manner reminiscent of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Eventually, revelations also transpire that reveal just why this boy’s well-being has been so important to Guillaume. Close’s greatest strength is his prose, which brings this world to life with a literary sensibility that stands out in a sea of standard, boilerplate fantasy novels. If only the plot were as impressive as the words that detail it. Despite the often beautiful writing, the story struggles to distinguish itself from other tales in the genre. Furthermore, Close has decided to populate his novel with names for characters, mystical creatures and places that are needlessly complex—Dwynleigsh, Feylobhar, Lyaeyni Meimniyl, Ryaleyr, Raogmyztsanogg, T’nkh’t’chk, Qal Jir’aatu, etc. As the list of unpronounceable names grows, it often prevents readers from emotionally engaging with the story.
Despite strong prose, this fantasy tale is ultimately undone by its overly familiar plot and distractingly peculiar names.