King of Dreams: A Vereldan Tale by Greg McLeod is a classic example of an epic fantasy novel. There are lots of characters, plenty of drama, swords, sorcery, betrayal, love, and unlikely heroes.
Laurin the dwarf is sent on a mission by a dead king to deliver a sword called Altingal to a young man named Avellin. Bryn of Bailon wanted to live a quiet life, but when war breaks out he learns a secret that not only impacts himself but it could change the course of the war. Rhea Redbreast is a Headhunter apprentice who is seeking to avenge her parents’ killers. Nudd Wiggin is an Orrian sailor with a grudge. He’s the sole survivor of a shipwreck in the Ice Wastes. He stumbles upon an ancient weapon and Nudd has no idea how powerful it is or what it wants from him.
Writing a compelling and believable epic fantasy is not an easy feat. Not only does the author have to create an entirely new world, but he has to fill it with a vast amount of characters. McLeod did not shy away from the challenge. There are so many characters in his novel that it would be useful for the reader to have a list of the characters at the beginning. This isn’t a complaint at all. Epic fantasies are epic and it takes some time for the reader to become acquainted with all the layers involved. Soon all the key players take shape and it’s easy to follow along.
And it’s impossible to have a novel of this type without a war. Again it would be useful for the reader to keep track of who everyone is fighting for. Adding to the suspense many of the characters are mysterious and it’s not entirely clear who can and can’t be trusted. This is an excellent element to the novel. Just when the reader thinks he or she knows what’s going to happen, McLeod throws a curveball. In fact, there are several major turning points in the story and many of them are shocking enhancing the overall experience.
This novel is impressive and it will keep many readers engaged and guessing. There is one puzzling aspect.The novel takes place in a different time and the world has black magic, swords, crossbows, moordwolves, and catapults. McLeod did a masterful job creating his fantasy world and alhough I’m told these words have been in use since the Middle Ages, using modern swearwords felt slightly out of place. This doesn’t mean he has to create a whole new language, but it can be somewhat jarring to read words like: ‘f*ck,’ ‘sh*t,’ ‘fricking’ and ‘bitch’ as a few examples. When creating a new world it’s best to keep the reader in that mindset and not bring them back to the world they reside in. It can ruin the mood momentarily.
Putting that quibble aside, the writing overall is solid and McLeod shows much promise as a fantasy author. The ending doesn’t leave that many loose ends, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on this author to see if he has a plan for a sequel. Hopefully he does.