It's been a little while since my last book review, mostly because I read at a snail's pace when I don't have a vacation in the offing. But we're back with an indie author that I think everyone should give a try. A quick note on grading: I've shifted to a 5 star rating system, since that translates better to other review venues I find myself frequenting. Also, I think I'm going to abandon any pretense of posting one of these every week on Wednesday...so these will go up as I get them written.
So, without further adieu...
This is the first book by David Dalglish that I've read, but I can assure you it will not be the last. At only around 30 pages, Guardian of the Mountain is really more of a novella (or maybe novelette? Pick your descriptor), but it's the perfect size to give the reader a taste of Dezrel, the fantasy world of Dalglish's "Half-Orc" novel series. This story functions as sort of a prequel of sorts, filling in back story for at least one character in that series.
Jerek is an apparent con man and ne'er-do-well, who has just discovered his ticket to a life of ease. He and his slow-witted friend Dan have made it to a fabled mountain filled with gold just waiting to be mined. Unfortunately he and Dan aren't the only ones to find it on this particular occasion. A pair of brothers, Mathis and Russ, along with Mathis' daughter Mira, have arrived at the same time. Agreements are made, and there is so much gold that it seems reasonable to share the unspoiled trove. But there is a very significant reason the mountain has remained unspoiled for so long. An old elf Jerek meets in the woods (his age itself an oddity for that race) tries to make him understand this with an ominous warning...and an offer of aid in exchange for the girl, who is clearly more than she seems.
Having not read Dalglish's Half-Orc series, I have no idea who these characters are, or why any of them may be significant, but the weight of their stories here is obvious. The entire narrative is tinged with a sense of unease, like something is going to happen the next time Jerek rounds a corner. The reader is not just reading about the characters as they move tensely about the sinister woods--the reader is moving about those woods as well, apprehensively rounding those corners, jumping at every rustle in the undergrowth. The story telling is immersive and engaging, and you care about these characters way more than you think you should with so few words in which to get to know them. It culminates in a climax that leaves the reader somewhat relieved, but still vaguely apprehensive about the future.
Fans who love to dwell in Tolkein's Middle Earth, C.S. Marks' Alterra, or the fantasy realms of Margaret Weis will find a home in Dezrel. And Guardian of the Mountain is a perfect way to get a quick sense of Dalglish's style and craftsmanship. I look forward to exploring further.
Grade: 5/5 Stars