Book Review – Riven Calyx

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted (or done book reviews), but I’m going to try to get back to them here. (Full disclosure—I did work on this project as a book coach, but I’m going to apply the same rubric I always use for reviews to see how it stacks up against others in the same genre.)

Enjoy!

Author: Mark Leon Collins

Genre: Fantasy

Book Blurb: In a world where wizards have been banished by a king seeking peace, three lives are drawn together…and torn apart.

Mordrak has served King Tell for years, fighting his war to unite Escavia under one banner, one lord. Now, the task is almost completed, with only a few cities left to conquer. But Nan-Enn proves hard to subjugate, and even after victory, Mordrak is haunted by those who defended the city.

Commissioned by his equally-effected king, Mordrak sets off on a quest to find a wizard, someone who can destroy the enchantment that hangs over Nan-Enn and those who fought there. But wizards were outlawed years ago, and Mordrak fears the only ones who can help them are very ones who might’ve caused this curse in the first place.

Mordrak’s sister, Adriselle, has lived all her live as a proper noblewoman, waiting for her family to marry her off, but she jumps at the chance to tag along with Mordrak. Soon, she discovers more to her world than she ever dreamed, encountering bandits, troglodytes, wyverns, and elves. Snatched half a world away by a wizard who might have his own agenda, she worries that she may never see her brother—or the Escavia she knew—ever again.

Meanwhile, Mordrak’s only hope lies with a wizard’s apprentice who would rather see him dead. The king may need a wizard, but do wizards need a king? Or even want to help?

The first in a series of chronicles set in Escavia, Riven Calyx tells of a fight against evil in the face of deception and darkness, selfishness and pain. Does hope even stand a chance?

Narration: 5 out of 5. The wording found in this story can be gloriously captivating at moments and fairly straightforward at other times, but it very effectively shows the character’s feelings, perspective, and mindset, even when we change which character we’re with. Thus, the author nicely captures the variety of perspectives in this story, effectively helping you get to know the characters by how they color the narration itself in their threads. The narration also contributes a great deal to how you experience the world, to where all the senses are involved as though you were actually there.

Content: 4 out of 5. This story has to cover a lot of ground, both in trying to explain the religious systems as they pertain to the plot and in covering the story threads that lead up to the climax. It feels like it could have been trimmed down to follow one or two characters and we’d have gained a deeper understanding of who those characters were, how they felt about things, and what they were dealing with—but, admittedly, it might be harder to get a complete story that way, to where a smaller aspect of King Tell’s enchantment might have to be conquered as the “goal of that story” instead of the whole enchantment.

As it was, this story is grand and expansive, and while this provides a bird’s eye view of what’s going on, it can feel like there’s more content than one can easily absorb in a single reading…and the fact that many of the characters are on the contemplative, over-analyzing side of things doesn’t necessarily help.

Characters: 5 out of 5. The characters were definitely the more interesting part of this story. I found Astocath, the slightly eccentric, half-elven wizard, and Adriselle, Mordrak’s sister, to be the most compelling, but Mordrak and his heartfelt struggles to be a good man can be equally intriguing, especially when set against Jorlon’s ambitious desires to be an amazingly powerful wizard. The range of characters helps keep things interesting, to where there are plenty of people to worry and wonder about, and while this can give readers a lot to keep track of, it also adds to the undeniable richness of the story.

Artwork: Subjective. Personally, I found the cover a little hard to understand. Are we seeing Mordrak, Adriselle, and King Tell in the background? Or Astocath, Adriselle, and the wizard who is supposedly behind all the troubles in this picture? Given the title, it might be appropriate to show a “riven calyx” on the cover, where you see the torn-apart pieces of a flower, perhaps with a sword to hint at the time period, but covers are always subject to taste what I like, other people might not care for. 🙂

World-Building: 4 out of 5. Since we follow a knight and his sister, a wizard, and a wizard’s apprentice, we’re more solidly on the wizards’ side of things than might otherwise be the case. Thus, we get to experience the feeling of being “outside looking in” instead of seeing all the political machinations going on int he established order, and this could make it harder to understand what’s going on in King Tell’s reign. More time is spent showing how trapped Mordrak feels thanks to the attentions he gains from Prince Tabor than in showing what the “normal” kingdom is like, and while this suits the unique cast of characters we’re focusing on, it can make it harder to understand the grander world and what Mordrak is trying to save.

Overall Response: 18 out of 20, or 4.5 overall. This unique offering gives readers a glimpse into a world full of wizards, ancient cults, and the politics that govern their interactions. Readers who enjoy a hefty does of story full of ancient overtones and mystical complications will appreciate this tale. The characters are varied and intriguing, the narration is delightful, and the pacing fast enough while still giving you time to appreciate each new development and problem…even if all the implications aren’t explored by the end of this story.

For more book reviews like this one, click here.

Copyright 2021 Andrea Lundgren

Cover used by permission of the author

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