A romantic fantasy, ambitious as any Tolkien-inspired work, earnestly and thoughtfully delivered.
Denny’s novel, his first and the opener in his Book of Broken Bindings series, begins in the Vale, a quaint and simple place, with Mr. Edward T. Cozzlebottom recalling a fragmented dream on a sunny morning during a quickly descending autumn season. Descending, it will be learned, with unnatural rapidity through dark and mysterious intent. At this auspicious moment, unconventionally wise sometimes-adventurer Cozzlebottom (Cozy to his friends) embraces his feelings for his neighbor, the sweetly hermetic rose-enthusiast Ezmerelda Wimbish, and writes her a letter confessing his affection. The eve after it is written, Mizz Wimbish is overcome by a desire to travel, and departs, and the letter is stolen by an Iron Rider traveling in shadow on a metal steed. Discovering his love vanished without explanation, Cozy enlists his friend Eddy to secure her safety and both parties venture in different directions into the uncertainty of the Outlands, the Western Hills and the Great Dorianic Forest, all encircled by the high peaks of the Bruste Mountains—Denny wisely includes a map with his text—where they find the stuff of myths and children’s stories to be more fact than fable and discover themselves figures in “a battle for light and time itself.” Denny’s drama, both jaunty and frightening, is engaging and well-paced, and his characters are wholesome archetypes: deeply lovable, easily feared or anything in between. His airy writing style and sense of whimsy complement the book’s heavy mythology. There’s nearly always allegorical meaning to be drawn from the myriad encounters of his sojourners, and lessons learned are tempered not with irony or snark, but with the contentment that knowledge gained is relational, and particular to the peculiar men and women that populate Denny’s epic landscape. Some symbols, characters and scenarios are a little too familiar, and the book’s triumphs may seem forgone conclusions, but engaged readers will be charmed and entertained.
Those who appreciate fanciful adventure fiction sincerely told will enjoy Denny’s work and look forward to the next installment.