Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods) by James Erich

Title: Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods #1)
Author: James Erich
Purchase at Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Genre: fantasy, YA
Length: 79,700 words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, print

A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

Now, as tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, the vek's son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, finds himself allied with a homeless vagabond named Koreh. Together they flee the capital city and make their way across a hostile wilderness to the vek's keep, mere steps ahead of the emperor’s assassins.

But Koreh has dreams—dreams of the ancient Taaweh—and he knows the looming war between the emperor and the vek will be nothing compared to the war that is about to begin. The Taaweh are returning, and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom once and for all.

This is a complex world with complex problems, and our two heroes are squack on the opposite sides. While it isn’t obvious at first how they can overcome the barriers even a little, Sael and Koreh do find a way to come together, at least partially, by the end of the story. This is a trilogy, and so nothing is completely resolved. And that’s way more than okay. More story for Cryssy!

I enjoy YA for the sweet dawn of understanding and coming together, and I appreciate the moderation of YA, where every push, poke and grunt isn’t on screen. Sael, the more prudish and restrained of the pair, comes from the high ranks of the realm. His father, the vek, has raised his sons to the equivalent of estate and clergy, not that it keeps Sael from needing to take on skills and responsibilities he never expected to need. His magic expands under the tutelage of Geilin, the mage tasked as his guardian. Geilin’s responsibilities increase exponentially as the quarrel between the vek and the emperor grows. They’d be lost without Koreh, whom they find on the road to Harleh.

This is a big, expansive plot, on the level of the humans and the supernatural, and the way they twine together. Koreh, who’s grown up as a street urchin, has no reason to trust Geilin and Sael, and little understanding of how he feels for the lordling who comes closer and backs away with every danger. Sael both yearns for Koreh’s approval and hesitates to give up his spare clothing when everything Koreh owns is washed away in a river crossing. Of the two, Sael needs more growth.

By the time the two (three, Geilin’s still there) survive the dangers of the road and reach their destination, the two young men know both that the warring factions of the gods separate them as much as their differences in ranks and expectations. Koreh, though, has enjoyed the tutelage of the underdog Taaweh, and has to act on behalf of more than one master.

The story is delightfully complex with its worldbuilding and with relationships: both young men have others pulling their strings, and not always in the same direction. Sael’s readiness to take offense or see motives where none may exist, while failing to note honesty (in his defense, it’s a rare commodity in his world) complicate their course. Being gay isn’t a major strike in this world; it does complicate life for someone of Sael’s rank.

While there is a glossary at the front and much is available from context, the difficult balance between “This is strange and other” and “here’s your story” wobbles a little. The local language becomes a little intrusive and overexplained, as if the author doesn’t entire trust us to “get it” but this flaw should be overlooked as the Taaweh maneuver their human champion through the war that is only partially theirs.

This is a sweeping epic and not yet complete, and I want the rest! 4.5 marbles

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