A fantasy adventure begins…
Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.
Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.
Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.
None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.
What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus.
I was very kindly sent a paperback copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much, Dorian Hart!
A group of eight unlikely heroes is summoned by the Archmage Abernathy and sets out on a quest which soon turns into a journey of self-discovery for some of them. Each of these unlikely heroes are very different to one another but have distinct skills and qualities which are needed in order for the ensuing quest to be successful – much like in a game of dungeons and dragons. Kibi was my favourite with his quiet and slow demeanor and his unusual talent with rocks:
“Gently he kneaded the stone, and it became soft beneath his fingers. He pressed and squeezed it, shaping it like a sculptor, knowing by instinct where to apply pressure so as not to break it apart. Over the course of a minute he transformed the many-faceted, asymmetric piece of rock into a round flat disc. Then he ran his finger over its newly smooth surface, tracing the letter E, and the letter was carved upon the stone from just the lightest touch. When he was done, the rock was pleased with its new shape, and Kibi thanked it silently for its cooperation. He couldn’t change a rock without its approval, after all.”
His philosophy on life makes him seem like the opposite of the impetuous Tor, an eternally optimistic teenage warrior who is always quick to act, and rush into situations without thinking. Kibi is much slower and considered in his actions:
“Kibi never went out of his way to seek company. It wasn’t that he disliked people, but he couldn’t ever think of what to say to them. Other folk moved through life too quickly, not just when they walked, but in how they acted toward one another or in seeking to meet their own needs and desires. It was hard to be social with folk hurrying past on either side. Life would always come to you, he found. No need to rush out and grab it.”
Dranko the goblin-touched loveable rogue with a heart of gold was another favourite. Instantly disliked by the cleric, Morningstar, for his uncouth habits, fondness for drink and coarse turn of phrase. He was once a priest and has scars all over his face from those days. That and his tusks, inherited from the goblin blood somewhere in his DNA has caused him to have a hard life of being judged by his appearance. Morningstar has also been judged by her appearance – she is a priestess of Ell and as such ought to have dark hair and a more nighttime themed name, but the goddess gave her white hair and an incongruous name for which she has been shunned and ridiculed all her life. You would therefore think these two should be allies rather than enemies.
Ernie is a guileless sixteen-year-old, pure of heart and kind to the core, he is a good cook and always looking out for the others, trying to support them where he can. However, he is a coward and is beset by fears of his unworthiness. Before the end of the quest he will find his confidence and become a hero.
Aravia is an apprentice wizard who is very full of herself and her limited magical abilities. Her abilities increase magnificently as she gains access to Abernathy’s spell books and starts studying.
Grey Wolf is the dour, older natural leader of the band of companions and has a good strategic head on his shoulders.
Mrs Horn is an older lady, a farmer who appears to be the voice of reason in the company and whose husband went missing five years ago. She hopes to find him one way or another, by undertaking Abernathy’s quest.
The quest itself is no mean feat. A monster has begun to break out of its prison and is threatening the end of the world as they know it. A series of tasks must be undertaken by the brave heroes, bringing them into peril repeatedly and allowing them to gain confidence and improve their monster fighting skills before they reach their final challenge. Their adversaries are unique, many and varied and the tasks are imaginative. The author is clearly not lacking in imagination.
The world around them is interesting and diverse. In one of the tasks they encounter a desert with wandering islands that move unexpectedly in it. Indeed, the worldbuilding in general in this book is wonderfully visually descriptive:
“Aravia peered into the morning haze rising from a carpet of last autumn’s leaves, and everywhere now among the trees were the husks of a long-dead city, the remnants of its walls and towers and roads resting in mossy silence beneath the forest that had conquered it. The Company crossed what was once a wide avenue, marked now only by a few brave paving stones reaching futilely out of the moldering underbrush. Then another enormous decaying wall loomed before them, the seams between its stones sprouting with moss and rough brown lichen. In the days when it was strong and whole, it would have blocked their path, but time and the woods had conspired to fill it with gaps.”
Add into this world some exciting adventures as the heroes complete their tasks and side quests and gain more powerful/courageous/confident in themselves and you have a wonderful story bursting with positive themes for younger readers to pick up on. Don’t give up! Believe in yourself! Even a simple baker can be a hero! Study hard and you will gain the knowledge you need to save the world! Need I say more…?
I thoroughly enjoyed my journey with the Heroes of Spira and will be reading the other books in this series. Recommended for middle grade readers and up – my thirteen year old son really liked it too!
About the Author
Dorian Hart is the author of the Heroes of Spira epic fantasy series, which currently includes The Ventifact Colossus, The Crosser’s Maze, and The Greatwood Portal. He also wrote the interactive science fiction novella Choice of the Star Captain for Choice of Games.
In a bygone century, Dorian graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in creative writing. This led circuitously to a 20-year career as a video game designer, where he contributed to many award-winning titles including Thief, System Shock, System Shock 2, and BioShock.
Now he writes books in his Boston-area study, serves as the stay-at-home dad for his two daughters, and happily allows his wife to drag him off on various wilderness adventures.