Sunday, 5 February 2012
17:51 Mark Cantrell No comments
Etchings of Power by Terry C Simpson is a slick piece of work by any measure, from its editing and formatting, through its natty use of graphic illustration, to the sheer detail and vivid life that powers the storytelling
A masterful work of epic fantasy
(Aegis of the Gods Book 1)
By Terry C Simpson
Edited by D Kai Wilson-Viola | Cover Art by Gonzalo Ordonez Arias
Kindle Edition | 152,000 words
THIS is a hard act to follow on so many levels, but if you want to see how an Indie novel can stand tall against the competition – DIY or traditionally published – then Terry C Simpson’s Etchings of Power is a masterful demonstration of literary craftsmanship.
Simpson and his editor D Kai Wilson-Viola have collaborated to establish a severe test for Indie authors. The quality of the editing easily gives any trad house of many decades standing a run for its money. The formatting and presentation, meanwhile, is simply breathtaking (and no, we’re not talking about the young lady depicted on the cover art either).
The author has demonstrated that an electronic novel can be as precisely typeset as any printed novel – complete with scene breaks illuminated by eye-pleasing graphics, and illustrated with detailed, well-drawn maps at the beginning of the novel. Okay, the screen size (at least on my Kindle) limits the degree of detail discernible in the maps, but they are a pleasing touch nonetheless, and – I understand – available on the author’s website for more detailed viewing.
All told, it’s a slick presentation but we’re not talking a treatise here on digital book production – so what about the novel?
Well, this is where we return to it being a hard act to follow, and that includes the author – he set himself quite a challenge to up the old ante. The book ends with a bang – and then some – and topped off with such a startling revelation, Simpson clearly isn’t messing about. Either he has bluffed his way into fall or he has some serious confidence in the story-telling arsenal he has yet to field.
Now, this revelatory bang that has left me reeling and yearning to know what follows has also rather limited what I might say about the world and the people of the plot. One thing, I’m certainly not going to reveal anything that hints at the end: why spoil things for the author and his readers. Suffice to say, it is in keeping with the detailed breadth and depth of the world and its people Simpson has imagineered (sic).
Etchings of Power is a big book – 152,600 words – and it is but the first in the author’s Aegis of the Gods series, so there’s plenty more to come. For all that, it never feels as if it’s been padded out. Well, it is epic fantasy so you want it to be of epic proportions – and not just in terms of the novel’s girth. On that score, Simpson doesn’t disappoint. The landscape is suitably vast, not a theatre set but an entire world, peopled with rich and varied cultures, steeped in politics and history that is never thrown in for the sake of it.
Indeed, Simpson’s descriptions are sufficiently detailed to bring the places and the peoples to life, without becoming overbearing. Likewise, when he dips into the histories and politics of the various kingdoms/nations, or explains some aspect of this peculiar magical world, he picks his moment with a careful eye – never too much, never out of place, so one never gets the impression of having been plucked from the story’s flow for the sake of an impromptu lecture.
At the heart of the story is one Ryne Waldron. At seven feet tall he is almost literally a larger than life character, but he never feels less than human, albeit troubled with powers almost too much for his control. The man’s history is a terrible and bloodthirsty one; he is as good as a legend in his own lifetime for the dreadful reputation he has forged in blood on the battlefield, but it is a past he is ashamed of and wants to put behind him. Unfortunately, events in Denestia and Ostania, will leave him little choice but to pull on his armour and live up to his bloody reputation once more.
As you might expect, it being epic fantasy, something evil is stirring in the land. An ancient enemy appears to be returning from exile, all tied up with Gods themselves long-since banished in the course of an ancient and devastating war. But this isn’t some straightforward binary good versus evil tale, nothing is ever that simple, and the return of this shadow of the past is intimately tied in with contemporary politics. Just what role does the Tribunal have in all this?
Questions for more than just Ryne; they will in their own way haunt Irmina (she of the scanty costume on the cover), tasked to pursue and persuade Ryne to once more take up his sword (a task overtaken by events), and her former lover Ancel, a young mage hunted by sinister forces as intrigue turns to open war in his homeland. They will need all their command of magic, as well as fighting skills, as the dark shadows of threat turn to the thunder of open war – and all the way through, those questions and intrigues, and ancient mysteries that demand answers will be snapping at their heels.
All in all, Simpson has created a vivid and rich world, with a suitably subtle and sophisticated cast of characters, caught up in a fantastic story of intrigue and high-octane action. So catch your breath, there’s more to come.
5 February 2012
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