Jayel Gibson,
The Wrekening
(Synergy, 2006)

The story is not what I hoped for.

Cwen, the estranged daughter of two Guardians of the realm AEdracmorae, is sent on a quest by Yavie, the Dragon Queen. In the past, there was a major war with demon soldiers called Gl'm; the Dragon Queen prevailed and the Gl'm were thought to be destroyed. But the Gl'm were actually petrified and banished to caverns beneath AEdracmorae; they could be resurrected by enemies, if certain crystal shards hidden across the land are found. While the powerful Guardians would be too conspicuous to search for the shards, Cwen -- who declined to follow in her parents' footsteps to become a Guardian herself -- would not. With her is her longtime friend and possible paramour, Talin, and a thief named Caen, who has been stalking Cwen, but could also be an asset.

The trio sets out to find the shards and recruits another ally, Klaed, a nobleman's son who also trained as a Guardian but declined it. Together, they encounter various perils, hidden enemies, treachery, unexpected allies and quite an adventure.

The Wrekening is a fast-paced, action-packed story, and the author writes quite well. The main characters are interesting, especially Cwen and Brengven. Cwen is beautiful and an accomplished warrior, has a volatile temper and is highly unpredictable. Brengven is a curmudgeon who dislikes almost everyone, but is extremely helpful. The book also has great cover art. I usually do not mention the cover art in my reviews, but The Wrekening has a lush, vibrantly colorful cover reminiscent of a high-quality comic strip.

This is a prime example of the adage about judging a book by its cover. The art is great, the premise is interesting and the writing is technically good, but that's it. The strongest, most three-dimensional character is Cwen, but even she is so unpredictable and volatile she loses all glamour. She routinely greets future allies by trying to kill them. These would-be murder victims routinely survive and fall in love with Cwen. This includes Talin, Caen and Klaed, who, except for differing backgrounds, are almost interchangeable.

I have twice used the adjective "routinely" thus far, and that could be stamped across each page of the book. The heroes routinely encounter seemingly insurmountable obstacles and routinely surmount those obstacles fairly quickly, ofttimes with the sudden entrance of a helpful character who then drops from the story. Or, one of the quartet reveals an ability that saves the day. They routinely retrieve one of the shards and go on to the next one. It gets very formulaic, repetitive and boring. It would have been better if there had been fewer shards (instead of 15 or so), with the task of obtaining each being more complicated.

There is also a disaster scene, wherein a small group of Gl'm are reanimated and destroy a city before the Guardian defeats them. This disaster had little impact on me, as the reader, as it was basically skimmed over.

Oh, and the beginning of the story is incredibly confusing, with a mess of characters thrown at the reader with little explanation of who they are, what their roles are and what their relationships are.

If you want a complex fantasy epic, read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale trilogy or the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb. If you want a dynamic heroine, look to Robin Hobb's Althea in the Liveship Traders trilogy or Alex Archer's Annja character in Rogue Angel: Destiny.

The Wrekening is good if you want a fast-paced fantasy story that is light on character development but heavy on action, monsters and battles -- and if you can tolerate and enjoy repetitiveness.

by Chris McCallister
3 March 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.