For my twenty-fifth book review in this blog and first book review of 2017, I’m reviewing The Final Warden, the first book in the epic fantasy series ‘Gifts of Vorallon’ by Thomas Cardin. The world in this book is close to something out of J.R.R. Tolkien or R.A. Salvatore, with humans living in alliance with elves and dwarves while threats to their world manifest in the forms of ogres, trolls, and demons. It’s a familiar epic/high fantasy type of world, but it was well executed here.
The protagonist of the novel is Lorace, a young man who awakes one day with ritualistic scars on his body and no memory of where he’s come from. In this world many people have a particular ‘gift’, which could just as easily be called a ‘power’ or ‘ability’. As the story progresses Lorace discovers his own gift, which he calls ‘sight’, the power to see within his mind places far from his location. In the context of the fictional world these gifts are said to be given by various gods, worshipped by the humans, dwarves, and elves together. Lorace is in possession of a mystical artifact called the godstone, sacred to the gods (naturally). With the aid of humans from the city of Halversome and dwarves from the city of Vlaske K’Brak, Lorace works to recover his memory and discover why it was lost. Along the way he becomes drawn into a war between the peoples of this world and demons from the realm of Nefryt, whose ravages threaten to destroy the world city by city.
The strongest aspect of this story is the quality of its worldbuilding. Within the first few pages, the amount of detail and complexity to the setting blew me away. The details of the world came out naturally, through character interactions and through comfortably brief narrator’s exposition. I was impressed with it, and I hope that I can come close to doing as well in my own work. The plot was at some points plodding and it took some time to get set up to certain key events, but I wouldn’t say I was bored with it. The book is relatively short, just over 200 pages, so for me it was a quick read overall.
There were several typos throughout the book, such as using “–ing” when “–ed” is meant and misusing apostrophes frequently. Given the overall quality of the rest of the story, this was strange to me. Apart from that, the story ends on something of a cliffhanger. Lorace’s main story arc is completed, but the arc of another character, a demonic entity called the Devourer, is left unresolved. This book is the first of three, so I may well get the next in the series to see what becomes of the Devourer. Cliffhangers are an annoyance to many readers, but the fact that the main arc of the story was resolved satisfied me in this regard.
The last comment I want to make on this book is that it fits one fantasy category that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately: Noblebright. The opposite of GrimDark fantasy, Noblebright is generally positive and optimistic. Heroes are heroic and villains are defeatable. This may make for more predictable storytelling, but it also provides some comfort for many readers who’ve felt lost with the recent trend that’s been popularized by ‘A Game of Thrones’ and its imitators. Fans of Noblebright fantasy and fans of more tradition epic fantasy will enjoy this book, and I’m pleased to say that I did.
This post was originally featured on cwbookclub.com.