A collection offers Hahn’s (The Ring and the Flag, 2015) four novellas set in his Lands of Hope fantasy realm.
In the month of Hawk, in the year 1995, ADR, a 15-year-old boy who is completely gray, drifts ashore in the Lands of Hope. Gypsy people called the Rom watch him bury his father, who didn’t survive their ocean crossing in a skiff, then adopt him as one of their own. Taking the name Solemn Judgement, the boy heads for Conar, the City of Wonders, named after the heroic Hopelord who conquered the Men of Despair centuries ago. In Conar, the magical Law has never been broken—yet Judgement unwittingly does so when he runs through a city square intended only for walking. An elf from the Sages Guild named Cedrith comes to his aid, later bringing him to the guild to learn to read and write. Elsewhere in the Lands of Hope, Trainertown waits for any adventurers sturdy enough to come back from the monstrous wilds of the Percentalion. When a band led by the warrior Haltar returns, needing food and rest, the preacher Alaetar immediately recruits them for another dangerous mission. Meanwhile, the evil Wolga Vrule lurks in an extradimensional prison, plotting with the demon Kog to shatter the peace created by the Hopelords. Hahn presents an immensely detailed world bristling with familiar fantasy elements like knights, dragons, halflings, and forbidden tomes. Even dedicated fans of the genre will be taken aback by the weight of his realm’s history and culture, which at best resembles a glittering, medieval still life. Unfortunately, those seeking an emotional payoff from Hahn’s mountainous vignettes, which rotate among Judgement, Haltar’s band, and a few others, will need patience to complete the journey. Hahn writes to conjure atmosphere, not speed toward conclusions, and the pleasure resides in lines like “[The warrior’s] words came in harsh, uneven shards as if his speech had been shaken and broken up inside his armor.” Frustratingly, despite this volume’s name, the last page ends with “to be continued.”
An ambitiously realized world dampened by an unfocused plot.