Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 3

Sorry for the delay on this part, I have been adjusting to quarrantine life, and unfortunately writing had to take a side seat for a few weeks.

But now I and ‘The Wardens of Corinthia’ are back, and we continue the story with part three of chapter one!

If you want to the earlier parts of this chapter you can check them out below:

Prelude
Part 1
Part 2

I hope you enjoy the continuation of this story and a huge thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


3

‘What does it mean?’ the sharp-eyed Dragonborn asked the wizened wizard.

‘In truth Mojito, I do not know.’ Alysha said as she poured over her scrolls and tomes, consulting all of the divination mechania that filled her study. ‘The appearance of this star is not an accident, and it clearly has some connection to the very weaves of fate that have brought you here.’

‘But it wasn’t fate that brought me here master, I chose to come here of my own volition! I travelled seeking answers from you and found you after a long journey, I was not wandering aimlessly in the wilderness!’ Mojito took a breath after his statement. He had not been able to fully learn the habit of taking breath between sentences and often waited until all thoughts were out of his mouth before re-filling his lungs.

‘I do not disagree with you, but you have just so happened to arrive in our town at the same time as two other travellers who come fleeing significant dangers and are seeking help. That is an impressive coincidence. Particularly under the burning star that is shining today.’ Alysha turned from her books and stared into a looking glass. Mojito could see nothing but a simple reflection in the polished surface, but Alysha was focused on something beyond the glass.

‘Two? There is only the gnome, no other travellers have come since I have arrived.’ replied Mojito uncertainly.

‘There was only the gnome, but a second has now arrived. It’s time for you to go to Aggie again. Tell her to go to the town square, her final guest is arriving.’ Alysha’s eyes remained focussed on what lay beyond the glass. Mojito rose, and with a bow left the wizard’s study, making his way down the spiral stair to the base of the tower, and out to the Studregg Tavern.

***

‘So what exactly did Alysha say?’ Aggie asked as Mojito led her and Tana to the town square.

‘She said that another person is coming and we are to go to the town square to meet them, she didn’t explain more than that,’ replied Mojito, impatient to find out exactly what was going on and meet this final guest. Stood in the town square, the trio watched the bustle as townsfolk attempted to carry on their work, as much as they could, whilst keeping half an eye on the burning meteor in the sky.

‘What’s goin’ on Aggie?’ Willow, the owner of one of the town’s general good stores, asked as she walked over from her small shop front.

‘Well, Alysha an’ Hektor ‘ave asked us t’ meet one of their friends out here, apparently, they are new in town.’ Aggie replied with a shrug.

‘Oh! Well that can’t be good, can it?’ Willow replied, hesitantly. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love them two, but I mean, it can’t be good news right? Wizards friends turning up at such a time?’ Willow tried to avoid looking at Mojito and Tana as she spoke, but her eyes could not help but flicker across the group. Tana shifted uncomfortably behind Aggie’s large frame as she avoided eye contact with Willow, whilst Mojito scanned the town. If he heard Willow he did not acknowledge her.

‘Come on now, that’s no way to talk! You know these two are friends, and ‘ave been nothing but lovely since they got ‘ere!’ Aggie replied, kindly but not softly. ‘Who knows what’s happening and we have no right t’ judge people who pass through-‘

‘Oh! Who’s that?!’ Mojito called out cutting Aggie short and causing both her and Willow to turn to his direction. Mojito pointed and hopped to see over the crowd, whilst Tana hopelessly scanned the crowd’s legs. She was getting used to not seeing much when there was a lot of large-folk around, but she did not resign herself to impassivity in such a situation. Aggie looked across the square and saw someone who appeared to just as startlingly tall as her, if not taller. ‘It’s a Firbolg!’ Mojito called out ‘It must be, I have never seen one but look! It’s all furry like a Goliath with hair!’ As the Firbolg made its way through town it kept attempting to engage townsfolk in conversation. Had it been any other day Harstead would have been more than welcoming, but people were on edge with the star hanging in the morning sky, and much to Aggie’s embarrassment, people were visibly avoiding the stranger and pointing them in any direction away from themselves.

‘Hiya darlin’ how’re doing?’ Aggie asked as she strode forward through the crowd, Tana and Mojito in tow, holding out a hand to the new visitor.

‘Oh! Hello! “I” am pleased to meet you!’ replied the Firbolg placing a hand over her heart as she spoke. Seeing Aggie’s outstretched hand she mimicked the gesture uncertainly.

‘What brings you to our town darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she reached forward and took the Firbolg’s hand and shook it with a smile, ‘You seem like you’re a long way from ‘ome.’

‘Well we are looking for help you see’ the Firbolg replied continuing to shake Aggie’s hand as she spoke, ‘we were sent by the people to find help, and so “I” came here.’

‘So what’s your name darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she subtly tried to break the handshake without outright tugging her hand away.

‘Darling? Erm.’ The Firbolg let go of Aggie’s hand as her golden eyes glanced down in thought, ‘Yes, Darling is my name?’ The Firbolg’s gaze fixed on Aggie inquisitively.

‘You ain’t sure?’ Aggie replied keeping the Firbolg’s gaze. ‘You can be Darling if you want.’

‘Okay!’ replied the Firbolg with a flash of relief crossing her face, ‘”I” am Darling!’

 

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 2

The Wardens of Corinthia is back, and we continue the story with part two of chapter one!

If you want to catch part one of this chapter you can check this out here!

I hope you continue to enjoy this story and thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


 

2

This was the furthest the firbolg known as the Lalar had ever travelled from her woodland home. She had heard of races cultivating the land and transforming it to produce food in vast quantities, but she had never truly seen it close. Stretches of uniform wheat growing within constructed barriers of deadwood prevented intruders from casually walking across the fields. It was a far cry from foraging in the woodland groves, but upon close inspection it was clear that even in this cultivated land many animals were able to make their home here.

A small family of dormice ran up and down the wheat sheave stalks, and many cottontail rabbits were enjoying the luxurious feasts that such intensive cultivation nurtured. Small birds built nests in the bushes that reclaimed the deadwood barriers, and sung tales of love and joy to the morning light; Chaffinches, dunnocks and wrens flitted from hidden perch to hidden perch. And where there are small animals, there are always larger animals to hunt them, and as far as Lalar could tell by their scent there was at least one family of foxes that had built a set nearby.

Nature always made a way, and no one could tame it for long.

Coming out of the wheat fields Lalar came upon a dirt path that lead to a dwelling built from deadwood and stone. She started towards the homestead before something caught her eye and her stomach turned. Across the top bar of the deadwood barrier that ran along the dirt path, little tiny bodies had been pinned. The bodies of many little, lifeless moles.

The grim trophies framed the dwelling darkly, and so, turning her back on the dwelling, Lalar followed the path in the opposite direction to what was presumably the large city that she had been told to go to.

Over the city she noticed a strange star burning brightly on the horizon. She had been so intent on the goings on the ground she had missed it completely until that moment. Perhaps it was a sign that fortune was with her.

***

‘THE SKY IS WHAT?!’ Tana cried out, rolling off her chair and running to a window of the Studregg Tavern to peak out at the sky nervously. ‘What is going on?!’ The sky was blue and clear, and not a flame could be seen.

‘Oh it’s nothing like that little one,’ laughed Hektor, choking on some bread that had been in his mouth as the deep gnome caught him off guard. Coughing he slammed his fist on the table several times, before settling his throat with some water. Aggie’s stared at him unflinching. ‘There is a comet in the sky Tana,’ Hektor announced as he stood up and walked over to the opposite side of the Tavern. ‘You won’t see it out of that window, but you can see it out of here, look!’ There was a rush and the sound of wooden chairs scraping on wooden floors as guests at the tavern scrambled to look out of the window that Hektor stood by, leaving Tana unable to get close. ‘BACK UP! BACK UP YOU LOT!’ Hektor called out at the crowd, making space for Tana to see the burning crimson and gold firebrand in the deep, cloudless sky.

‘What is it?’ Tana asked nervously, her large green eyes fixed on the burning sigil.

‘Tis a sign. An omen.’ Hektor replied solemnly.  ‘You know what that means?’ Hektor asked the small gnome who had pulled herself up onto the windowsill. Tana nodded darkly before turning her attention back to Aggie, who was still sat in her chair, looking past the tavern door. Hektor walked over to Aggie, through the whispering rabble, and sat back at the table, continuing to pick at his food.

‘I still thought I would’a had more time,’ Aggie said, turning to look at Hektor. ‘But I guess ye can’t really choose these things can ya?’ Hektor smiled the same warm, chip-toothed, smile he had had for as long as she could remember.

‘Course you can Aggie.’ Hektor said, in a quiet rumble, pushing his empty plate into the centre of the table. ‘You always have a choice. But what ye don’t always have is the opportunity t’do something truly different, t’go out there and see the world.’ Hektor’s hand gestured pointingly to emphasise his words, ‘You have always had a fiery ‘eart Aggie, and you ‘ave built somethin’ truly beautiful here.’ Hektor looked over to Tana who had turned back to look at the comet in the sky. Aggie followed his gaze to the small gnome. ‘There are others who need ‘elp, outside of ‘arstead. Help that me an’ Alysha can’t exactly do no more.’ Hektor stood up and placed his hand on Aggie’s shoulder comfortingly, ‘The last one will be ‘ere soon, after that it’s up t’you. Ye can’t make a wrong decision here Aggie. It’s an important decision, but it’s not possible t’get it wrong.’ Hektor dropped a gold piece on the table as he walked towards the tavern door.

‘Hektor wait!’ Aggie called after the grizzled veteran as he neared the door. Hektor turned around with raised eyebrows.

‘Hmm?’

‘You forgot your leftovers!’ said as she rushed into the kitchen to pack a fresh meal to go for her old friend.

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 1

The Wardens of Corinthia is here, and we start with part 1 of chapter 1!

If you want to catch the prelude you can check this out here!

I hope you enjoy the beginings of this story and writing experiement!

 


 

1

It was a bright and cold Spring morning as Aggie looked out at the frost that still sat on the rooftops of her small hometown. Of the twin moons that hung in the sky, only Luna could be seen in the dawn-light, slowly waning like the closing eye of a lethargic god.

Hektor’s words stuck in her mind like a thorn. This town, this life was all she had ever wanted. It held her parent’s memories and love. Wasn’t that enough? Sighing, Aggie turned back into her tavern.

The wooden floor was clean and the tables and chairs had been arranged neatly. A well-worn bearskin rug lay before the simple stone hearth, which crackled with the morning’s fresh firewood. The creaking of the floorboards above foretold the rising of her guests from their slumber. And it would be amiss for any one of them to wake up without breakfast and a hot drink to greet them into the new day.

***

‘MOJITO!’ Aggie cried out, startling the mixed-blood Dragonborn, who had been quietly raiding the pantry before the other guests had awoken, causing food to scatter across the floor in the process. ‘How many times to I have to tell you to stay outta my kitchen?’ her southern drawl softened the tone of her loud Orcish voice. Mojito’s vibrant blue crest stood on end, like the fur of a kitten that felt threatened, as he reeled back coughing.

‘S…shhooryy…’ choaked Mojito, between coughing fits, which quickly became silent as he struggled to catch a breath. Aggie walked up to him and gave him a solid thump on his back, knocking him to the floor, and causing a large chunk of onion to come flying out of his mouth in the process.

‘Now you know that that tastes better cooked right?’ Aggie said as she helped her scaled visitor to his feet.

‘Well yes, quite,’ replied Mojito regaining his composure and intonation, before diving into a hurried explanation ‘I was hoping to set out early today and was very worried that I would go hungry because I am not sure when Alysha is planning to eat, if she wants me to be with her at all, and if she does not then I am uncertain what it is that would be good for eating around these parts, as I have grown rather accustomed to your home-cooking and figured that your raw ingredients would taste a hell of a lot better than whatever I could find in the woods.’

‘Well raw onions ain’t good for no-one,’ replied Aggie as she started grabbing food out of the pantry, and setting it out on the kitchen counter. ‘And if you can waitfur five minutes I will throw sumthin’ together that will taste a lot better than anythin’ you could scavenge on your own.’

***

Mojito, satisfyingly full, walked to the tall stone tower where Alysha had set up her study and observatory in the heart of Harstead. The chill was slowly breaking as the sun rose, and Mojito was excited about what the day might hold. As he strode past townsfolk beginning their days work, a small mote of light caught his eye. Floating on the wind like a dandelion seed, the small figure of an elemental landed upon Mojito’s hand. The translucent, vaguely humanoid spirit pointed skyward, and as Mojito shielded his eyes from the sun’s glare, something came into focus.

A comet slowly burned silently across the sky, brighter than the Morning Star.

As Mojito stood transfixed by this omen, those around him started to notice the celestial event as well. Worried and excited whispers and shouts came from the townsfolk as early birds roused their households to see this important sign.  Realising the hubbub that now surrounded him Mojito looked to his now empty hand curiously, before continuing onward to his teachers home.

***

Aggie had just started to eat her own breakfast with Tana, after serving the handful of guests that had rented rooms, when Hektor burst through the Tavern door. ‘Where’s my lil’ Aggie?!’ he roared to the startled and sleepy room of guests who were thoroughly underprepared for such excitement so early in the day.

Although he had not been taller than Aggie for many years, Hektor had always called her ‘lil’ Aggie, and hearing those words from the scarred, chip-toothed, bushy bearded veteran, always filled her heart with excitement, even after all these years.

‘Goodness Hektor, what are you shoutin’ about? Are you tryin’ to scare the skin off of everyone here?!’ She roared back, slamming her heavy fist onto the wooden table she was sat at as she spoke.

There was a moment’s silence as uncertain guests shifted uncomfortably in their seats, before Hektor and Aggie could no longer maintain their composure and broke into hearty laughter.

Embracing each other, Aggie lifted Hektor off his feet for a moment before putting him down again and bringing over to the table where she was sat with Tana. ‘How’re you doing little one?’ Hektor asked the small deep gnome at the table.

‘Okay,’ Tana said, averting her eyes from the large man that took a seat at the table opposite her. She found the way Aggie’s friend looked at her to be unnerving. He seemed to know who she was as soon as he had met her, four weeks ago, after Aggie had offered her the shelter she had so desperately sought. He had asked why she had come to Harstead back then, but he did not seem surprised by her story, it seemed like he had already heard it before. But Aggie trusted him, even if he wasn’t telling her everything.

‘So what’re you doing here?’ Aggie called out, as she returned from the kitchen with fresh bread and cheese, which she placed in front of Hektor.

‘The sky’s on fire Aggie,’ Hektor replied with a smile as Aggie sat back at the table. ‘And that means that the time has come for you to make a choice.’ Unmoving, Aggie kept Hektor’s gaze as he started to eat…

(To be continued…)

The Wardens of Corinthia

“After The Sundering the power of the gods was broken. Those that lived under their yoke were free to strike out their own path through history. People of all races and nations now had the opportunity to reach out beyond the mold that had been cast for them by their gods, to reshape the world to their own vision.

However, the ability to take advantage of this power vacuum was not isolated to the material plane…”   (read more)

Welcome to this new writing series!

Over the next several months I am going to be posting short episodic chapters for a new high fantasy story, which will form the Campaign Diaries of a current Dungeon and Dragons game I am running.

Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative storytelling medium, and the story that will unfold will follow four main-characters, who were crafted and are acted by four real-world people. My role in this collaboration is to provide the setting and the story for these characters to explore and build on together. I have used several sourcebooks from the Wizards of the Coast to help build this setting and the adventure, but this campaign diary will be my own words; my own twist on the events and individuals that have come from a variety of sources, including my own imagination.

The ownership of a collaborative effort is hard to pin down, which is why we are sharing this experience with you for free.

I hope you enjoy the story that will unfold every week. I have ideas about what direction the story may head, but as I do not control the four main characters, they may, and do, undertake actions that I was not expecting, which adds to the suspense and drama of this storytelling experience as a writer.

The first part of this story is a prelude.

From the stage I set this week we will dive into the experiences that my players and their characters have had, presented with proper narrative and prose, for the enjoyment of everyone!

I hope you enjoy this writing experiment and that you choose to continue this exciting journey with us!

With all that said, let’s start the story first, by going back 15 years ago…

Book Review: Barefoot Gen Volume 1

‘Gen is my alter ego and his family are just like my own.’

 

Barefoot Gen Volume 1

Japan is the only country in the history of the world that has had an atomic bomb used against it in war.

It went through that trauma twice.

When I finished reading Barefoot Gen I did not have any words to say.

I just sat there with tears in my eyes processing what I had just read.

This graphic novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of the author Keiji Nakazawa and his childhood experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

It is a passionate and emotive piece of anti-war literature, and one of the most deeply disturbing horror stories I have read.

Junji Ito may provide a visceral and terrifying supernatural horror experience on a graphic novel page, but Keiji Nakazawa’s story is real, that is the most disturbing thing of all.

This story is an important piece of modern literature, in the same vein as the war poetry of the frontline soldiers of World War 1, and it provides a unique insight into the domestic situation in Japan at the end of World War 2 and the impact of the atomic bomb being dropped that is not familiar to western readers.

I say western readers, but I can only speak from my own experience of history lessons taught in the UK. I knew about the atom bomb, I knew it was dropped to stop a long drawn out war to claim every individual island of Japan, I knew that it immediately ended thousands of lives instantly like turning off a switch.

Except that last part is not true.

I was taught a very sanitised understanding of atomic warfare, and Barefoot Gen breaks through that understanding violently.

The story told follows Gen, a child living in Hiroshima in the final days of World War 2, and his family. His father is opposed to the war, and living in a militaristic society this leads to Gen’s family being branded traitors.

The reader is introduced to the issues that the civilians of Japan were facing with food shortages and starvation being present in the face of a war that was slowly being lost, along with the pervasive militarism that permeated their society, blinding people to the fact that the war was not going well.

Gen's father

These struggles form the majority of volume one as Gen’s family try to cope with having their neighbourhood turn against them, simply because they are opposed to sending young men out to die for a war that should never have been engaged in.

And then the date ticks over to the 6th August 1945.

The final 35 pages of the manga address the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb. It is haunting. You are given the slightest impression of what Keiji Nakazawa had to experience, and it enough to chill you to the core, and question what humanity is capable of.

The art style used is a very classic, simple, disney-esque cartoon style, lacking the detail that you get from other high quality manga or graphic novels, but this does not negate the emotional connections you build with the characters in this completely human story. You begin to feel like you truly know Gen’s family, and in this process Keiji Nakazawa gives us an intimate and deeply personal insight into his own relationship with his family and the life that he lived in Hiroshima.

There are further volumes of Barefoot Gen that deal with life after the dropping of the bomb. I have not yet read it, and feel I still need time to process volume 1 before I move onto the next part of the story.

Trampled Wheat

Barefoot Gen is, in my view, essential reading. Even if graphic novels are not your cup of tea, the story that it tells is an important part of human history, and it gives a unique insight into the events of 6th August 1945, that should form part of the education around the use of atomic weaponry, that is an ever present shadow in modern global politics.

Giff Wars Session 2: Port Isley

The continuation of the journal of Nei, a Paladin in the service of House Organo.

The Party

 

The Giff’s hut sat in the middle of a large peaceful clearing. There was a quaint little lake just at the back.

Inside the hut, the Giff bumbled around; slightly too large for his surroundings he knocked a pile of books off the shelf as he walked by. ‘Dearie me!’ he laughed to himself. ‘Tea was it?’ He asked us.

‘Yes, Oolong if you have it!’ Alicath replied. Ubi offered us all some bright purple bourbons.

‘Delicious!’ I couldn’t help but cry out.

‘Yes… delicious,’ said Ricktar, eying the remaining bourbons on the shelf with a suspicious longing look in his eye. The hippo-oid came back shortly after with oolong for everyone and joined us next to the crackling fire.

‘Let’s get down to business’ he said addressing our group. He told us about magic and machines and how he had served alongside the princess’s father in the Ascension War. Taking out the letter, he inspected the seal. ‘This letter is from King Organo himself, and imbued with magic,’ he announced,  ‘Watch this…’ He picked up some tongs by the fire and, clasping the letter, delivered it into the flames. The letter burned away and just as something metallic dropped into the grate, the flames took on a life of their own, dancing around violently.

In the flames an image started to form of the King. His booming voice emanated from the fireplace, although more hollow, and with a tinge of desperation. ‘Ubi, my old friend,’ he said. ‘The Giff Empire has resurrected your airship. The resistance will have no chance if it remains in the enemy’s possession. You know it’s power; continents *will* be destroyed. Help us defeat it. You are our only hope.’

The flames died down and Ubi retrieved something from the fireplace. Turning it over in his hands, light bounced off the sigil of House Organo.

‘This is grave news indeed,’ Ubi said, breaking the silence. ‘We must go at once to Alder and speak to the King, but first,’ he said standing up, ‘there are some things I think you will do well to take,’

He led us into his storage room and dug out a box full of sword hilts. Eddie had a quizzical look at this development and Ricktar asks gruffly what use a box of hilts is. Ubi guffawed and said that these were not mere hilts. He passed one to Eddie and told him to press a small button on the side. Eddie was unfortunately unsure what a button was. But I knew what these were; sunswords!

Alicath Pose
Alicath admiring the sunswords, pre-burn

I took a hilt, pressed the button and instantly a long flame burst out of the end. Overzealously I flourished it around enthusiastically but ended up badly burning myself and singed Alicath in the process. Ubi handed out more hilts to the party, and various complaints, and some fixes later, including the manufacture of a sungun and a sunstaff, Ubi then gave Ricktar and myself two metal canisters. ‘Be extremely cautious to keep your flaming swords away from these if you want to live,’ he smirked.

‘What use are these?’ Ricktar grumbled. Ubi led us outside and threw one of the canisters at the distant trees. A blinding light and one enormous explosion later, several trees were flattened and we were slightly dazed even at that distance. Ubi turned around and said,

‘Now you know why there’s a clearing here. Keep your flames away.’

We headed back inside briefly to gather our belongings. By the shelf Ricktar was stuffing an ungodly amount of bourbons under his armour.

Ricktar Bourborns
Ricktar dealing with an unfortunate addiction to bourbon biscuits on the road.

A short time after, we set off into the jungle towards Port Isley.

The journey went undisturbed and it was midday by the time we arrived at the outskirts of town. The port below us was bustling with a diverse variety of people. At the sea was a pier with airships above and seaships below. The largest ship, an Empire ship, appeared to have cannons on it!

Ubi is disapproved of our outlandish outfits and sensibly handed us each a cloak from his bag. We agreed to head into town and for Ubi to stay behind on this hill. On the way towards the port however we disagreed on how to proceed. Ricktar and myself wanted to take the big Empire ship, but Alicath and Eddie wanted to take a smaller ship and go for a more subtle approach.

The team had a dispute and decided to split up!

I found a group of airship crew and persuaded them to join me in crewing a ship as “we are on a mission from God[unspecific]”. The crew eagerly agreed and I said I would give them direction later.

Nei on a mission
Nei on a mission from a god, but dont ask which one…

Ricktar meanwhile headed to a nearby tavern where, it turned out, Eddie and Alicath were currently playing a song on stage. Ricktar shook his head at the display and ordered himself a stiff drink from the bar…

Written by Chloe Wakefield

Artwork by Jess Butcher – www.friendlyurchin.com

Edited by Aaron Surnaym

Previous: The Hunt for Ubi

Next: To the Skies

Want to read more hot D&D content? Click here!

Giff Wars: Introduction

A long time ago,

In a multiverse far far away…

The War of Ascension is over. The Giff Empire now consolidates its’ power over the world through its use of advanced weaponry and superior warfare techniques, that it brought with it from the stars. But not all of the world is satisfied with subservience to the giff.

Many kingdoms balk against its power and are looking for a way to overthrow the Empire, a fact the Empire is not blind to. Rumours abound amongst the upper echelons of society of the giff dabbling in magic and artificery, arts they have rejected since they crashed onto the planet 500 years ago.

One House, once a Kingdom before the Giff Empire, has found plans related to a great giff weapon. A horrific blend of magic and their own alien technology.

House Organo must now find away to stop the Empire before it is too late…

 

Next: The Hunt for Ubi

 

Book Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

‘The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.’

51nDTUXFvaL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

I am a big fan of epic fantasy. I love the Lord of the Rings, despite how over-written it can feel, I enjoyed Eragon, before I found out that it follows the same story as Star Wars Episode IV, and I love George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. So I was surprised when I discovered that I had missed out on a large fantasy epic series that was fairly well known named The Wheel of Time.

Much like The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time series is author Robert Jordan’s magnum opus. There are 13 books in the series, and Robert Jordan passed away before finishing the last two, which were finished using his notes, in the same manner as Christopher Tolkien has constructed and published the books his father had written or intended to write when he died.

I have only read the first book so far; The Eye of the World, and whilst it certainly has the narrative cliffhangers that pull the story into the rest of the series, it does not prevent the book from being a fully self-contained story. This makes it perfect for someone to pick up if they are uncertain about committing to a 13 part series; you can read the book and if you don’t want to spend longer in the world, you will at least have the satisfaction of a complete story, loose threads being more of an intrigue as to what the future may hold than an story arc that feels unsatisfactorily left open.

The Eye of the World follows the story of a group of village youths, Rand, Mat, and Perrin, being taken from their town by a mysterious Aes Sedai; a sorcerous woman whose power is feared by everyone in the village and surrounding towns. An evil force pursues the youths, and they spend the book coming to understand why this evil wants them so desperately and what they can do to protect themselves.

This summary makes the book sound like a fairly standard heroes journey, and it does have some very familiar story beats to The Fellowship of the Ring, but where I think Robert Jordan’s book really sets itself apart is its cosmology.

This cosmology takes heavy influences from East and South Asian mysticism, with time being an unending wheel where key world events happen unerringly in cycles, a cycle of death and rebirth, all of which is fuelled by the One Power, a fundamental force of Robert Jordan’s universe. This Power is the source of all magic, and is divided into male and female halves, two parts of a whole, that can only be touched by those of the corresponding sex. But there is not balance; one half of the One Power has been tainted by evil and cannot be safely channelled. These light and dark halves of a whole evoke the concept of ying and yang to continue the East Asian faith theme.

This underlying cosmological groundwork is placed under a more traditional good versus evil framework, with similar language used as is found in Abrahamic faith; there is a good but distant creator, mysterious and unknowable, and a devil character, named Shaitain, who takes an active part in corrupting the world, as well as creating evil creatures to serve him in a manner similar to Morgoth and Sauron from The Lord of the Rings.

There is a lot going on with these concepts and the question of what happened to the One Power and whether it can be restored to purity appears to be a thread that will be picked up on in later novels, however the cosmology does not bog down the storytelling. We slowly learn more and more about it as a flavour and explanation for the character development we see as we progress. It facilitates the story rather than constraining it, and this is what helps make the story so gripping. The fantastical rules of this world are very different from the rules we see in Tolkien or Martin’s work, and it is interesting to see how these different rules shape the archetypal characters that we are introduced to.

This book is an accessible and enjoyable read. It is familiar fantasy with a distinct and unique flavour that keeps the reader hooked throughout.

If you like fantasy stories and have not found The Wheel of Time series, I would recommend reading this book, as it provides a new and interesting world to enjoy. It is more accessible than Tolkien, and less convoluted than Martin with similarities to both whilst still feeling fresh.

If however fantasy is not your cup of tea, The Eye of the World is not so different that it is likely to change your mind. It is a book firmly grounded in the fantasy genre and takes it in an interesting direction, but not so far away that you no longer have people with swords fighting bad guys that are embodiments of evil, and evil is evil for evil’s sake.

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