Gedlund by William Ray
Kirkus Star


From the "Tales of the Verin Empire" series, volume 1
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Ordinary human soldiers face supernatural foes in this first installment of a fantasy series.

Ray’s fiction debut stars a young man named Tammen Gilmot, a private first class in the Dragon Company of the 37th regiment in service to the Verin Empire, sent to the far-flung province of Rakhasin. Tammen is new to the service, having only recently taken the Queen’s Coin and shipped out to the frontier. He joins the unit of a legendary commander, Capt. Hoskaaner, known as the Statue Man, who initially seems like an ageless holdover from the old days when Elves still intermingled with human empires. As one seasoned soldier complacently informs Tammen: “You can’t expect things to be orderly where there’s wyrding involved.” The disappearance of the Elves has left a power imbalance that’s allowed the kingdom of Gedlund, led by an immortal witch king named Thyesten, to flourish and threaten the Verin Empire with supernatural forces such as weaponized sorcery and goblin shock troops. Early on, Tammen faces the fierce goblins (“Though he’d read of them, seen sketches in books, and even caricatures in the paper, none of that left him quite prepared for his first sight of the goblin warriors. They were much shorter than men, but their hunched run gave him little sense of size as they darted through the waving grass. Their broad olive faces were streaked in white paint”). This promising first volume mainly tells the story of Tammen’s coming-of-age as both a young man and a soldier. Ray shifts easily among scenes of campfire camaraderie and well-executed action sequences in which the Verin rifles, artillery, and bayonets go up against the swords and sorcery of their Rakhasin enemies and others. Tammen, ostracized for much of his youth because of his intellect and formal education, finds in Dragon Company unexpected friendships under fire, and his newcomer status on the frontier gives Ray a ready-made vehicle for introducing readers to the refreshingly intricate back stories of Gedlund, Verin, and the magic wars that have grown in ferocity since the departure of the Elves from the world. The book’s dialogue crackles with authenticity, its characters are unfailingly well-drawn, and although its pacing can be uneven at times, its complicated systems—political and magical—are satisfyingly multilayered.

This bracing, complex tale pits a fantasy-world version of the Victorian British Empire against a sorcerer-dictator out of The Lord of the Rings.


Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2014
Page count: 493pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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