Mintaka, the first book of the Road in the Sky Saga by Brian M. Brownrigg follows a young boy named Orion, joined by his friends including his loyal dog Sirius and a strange magician named Isis. They soon discover the plans of the Gods and what Orion must do to ensure the world stands against an evil conqueror whose seal may be breaking, gathering alliances and facing the inevitability of loss during their adventure.
Mintaka is fairly standard fantasy fare that doesn’t break very much in terms of new ground in setting or basic premise. A triad of gods and a dark lord, named The Dark Lord, set up their cosmic chessboards for a game millennia overdue, and a farm-boy and his friends – largely orphaned – discover great magic and heroes when destiny calls for them, a horde of demons at the will of a lost evil providing their first hurdle of the saga. The premise is simple but allows room for an interesting story within easily recognizable bounds.
A heavy emphasis on the concept of fate throughout provides the core concept of the story, with The Dark Lord being cast as outside of the view of the Gods versus the prophecies and plans given to the heroes throughout as handed down by these Gods of creation. Initially unquestioned, there are some hints that the Gods may not be as perfect as they seem, which gives even the evil tyrants some standing of reason behind their actions.
The mythology itself takes a lot from real life and borrows naming convention from figures known to the reader to easily give a first impression of characters and running themes in relationships (for instance, the main character Orion whose fate is regularly linked to the stars and other astronomic names like Sirius, Mintaka and Altair during the course of the book). A no-nonsense attitude to world-building in plain English thankfully spares readers of wading through fantasy gobbledegook and quickly digs into a briskly-paced narrative, a refreshing turn in the fantasy genre, although at times these elements rob the book of its own identity because of it.
The setting is laid out beautifully within these boundaries with colorful descriptions of the otherworldly magic of the land and does a good job of highlighting the threat of the creatures the protagonists face. This is helped by simple illustrations of certain images and symbols that words aren’t enough to accurately portray in the author’s opinion. The layout of the book itself is rather well thought out with chapters nicely ordered and with a fitting look to the pages.
The cover does a good job of showing off the classic fantasy feel of the text, making it look at home with similar old novels at home next to some early print Dungeons & Dragons material, all the basic elements of the story well presented, albeit alongside a somewhat morose depiction of the fearsome dragon of the story.
While a lot of the basic parts of the book are fairly simple to assume, fans of old-school sword and sorcery fiction will be happy with another story of dragons to be slain and paragons of evil to battle, complete with occasional one-liners with flecks of romance dotting the space between.