Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.
Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.
Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.
None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.
What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus.
Lately I have developed a bit of a soft spot for fantasy novels that have strong roots in role-playing games, so early on I knew that The Ventifact Colossus was going to be my kind of good time. First off we’re introduced to Dranko, a half-Goblin former Priest who lives by his wits on the streets. He’s behind on rent, he’s lost his faith, he drinks too much and he’s got a mouth that’s blessed with +2 to sarcasm. We spend a little time getting to know and root for him – he’s your archetypal lovable rogue with his share of tragedy, and I enjoyed him immediately. A chance encounter shows Dranko that his god may not have forsaken him after all, and shortly afterwards he receives a mysterious message summoning him to the tower of the local archmage, Abernathy.
As it turns out, Dranko isn’t alone in being summoned. A motley group of adventurers has been selected by Abernathy’s spell to take on the rather important task of saving the world. Thing is, nobody is sure why they were selected, and Abernathy is fairly clueless on this point too – he trusts the spell, however, and is confident that they have all been chosen with good reason. And with that, he assigns them a quest and off we go!
A big strength of this novel is the characters. They’re distinct, their backgrounds are well thought out and their behavior is consistent with their personalities. I loved that some of them had no affinity for magic and were just normal folk, bakers and farmers who had no clue why they were suddenly thrown into a dangerous adventure but stayed because it was the right thing to do. Others had hidden talents, and a couple were outright powerful either in brawn, brains or spellwork. The dialogue was snappy and fun, and I found myself chuckling out loud several times. This was particularly true when we finally switched from Dranko’s PoV – after spending the first stretch of the novel growing to like and root for him, our second PoV character hates his guts immediately.
While some very bad things happen through the course of the story, the tone is generally light-hearted and adventurous. Clues are discovered and followed, missions are assigned and the group muddles their way through it as best they can. Things go horribly wrong, but the characters pull together and learn how to work with one another, and their individual development is handled really well, with the more complex characters given the lion’s share of time to shine. That’s not to say that the less complicated characters were less enjoyable, mind you. Tor and his gung-ho leap-before-you-look attitude was hilarious, Grey Wolf’s snarly mercenary was a great foil for Dranko, and Ernest’s sweetness rounded out the group perfectly during their more trying moments.
The worldbuilding is fairly standard but with enough richness to be enjoyable, and overall it had the feel of a really great game of Dungeons & Dragons. If that’s your kind of jam then you definitely need to give this one a look. I think in terms of criticism I don’t have a whole lot to talk about – there were some general pacing issues here and there, and I felt that one of the more major events of the novel happened too soon and was therefore robbed of some of its emotional impact for me as the reader. But it was great fun, and I’ll be checking out the rest of the series for sure.
Bingo Squares 2018
- Reviewed on r/Fantasy
- Features a Library
- Fewer than 2500 GR Ratings