Evil forces empowered by the Dark Writings threaten to destroy the Realm in Schmutz’s debut fantasy novel.
Schmutz’s first book in a planned trilogy introduces a world of heroes and villains, prophecies and magic. Davian Ul, an ambitious, ruthless man whose presence pervades the novel like the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s wizard Sauron, will stop at nothing to win control over the Realm. He’s in possession of the Dark Writings—a collection of sinister secrets employed by “the most powerful man who ever walked the earth”—and has learned the power of the Dark Ways, including the ability to control minds and wipe out entire villages through the use of powerful magic. Standing in the way of Davian Ul’s total domination is the Alliance, a partnership led by the kings of the Realm. Concerned about Davian Ul’s growing power, the Alliance decides it has no choice but to wage war and attempt to overrun Davian Ul’s fortress at Tar Belg. At the center of the story is a prophecy foretelling the arrival of three brothers, separated at birth and divided, “One to Greatness / One to Strength / And One to Serve the Dark.” Schmutz swiftly links three boys to the brothers of the prophecy, as each side of the war struggles to decode and fulfill the prophecy’s larger meaning. Schmutz’s Realm is a vivid world, full of clearly drawn lands and people, and the ambitious novel uses several hundred pages to effectively explore its politics, religion and traditions. The large web of characters is initially confusing, but the story soon takes shape and becomes easier to follow. Though the prophecy feels vaguely like a J.K. Rowling plotline, and the willingness to kill off central characters is a page from George R.R. Martin, Schmutz’s work presents unique, nuanced characters and unexpected plot twists. Fans of the genre will eagerly devour the tome, and the cliffhanger ending is sure to leave readers wanting what’s next.
An engrossing read that’s a solid addition to the fantasy genre.