COVER DESIGN: Thomas Cardin
Fantasy lit comes in many colors. The Final Warden's color is blue, as in blue blood. This is pure-bred classic, world-building fantasy. Perhaps “formal fantasy” might be a better description. Thomas Cardin touches all the familiar tropes: magic, elves, dwarves, knights, evil queens, and terrible demons. I often find these kinds of books simply Tolkienesque knock-offs, with a few things changed, like calling elves or hobbits something else. Cardin doesn’t do that. No, he plays by the rules, and handles the genre with the utmost respect. In the doing, he creates a uniquely enjoyable novel.
The Final Warden is the first installment in the Gifts of Vorralon series. Lorace finds himself washed up on a strange shore with few memories and grasping a small metallic sphere. Hungry and confused, he stumbles into the city of Halversome. Soon, Lorace begins to discover who he is, and that he possesses powerful gifts, magical powers. He also finds himself on a collision course with enemies, including demons, possessing equally powerful gifts. Along the way, Lorace meets Tornin, a handsome knight who swears an oath to protect him. Other allies join them as the nature of Lorace’s gifts, and past, are revealed, and how they are tied to the world of Vorralon itself.
The novel is well-written, edited and suitable for most ages. First, its easy to read, and easy to follow, which was a pleasant surprise. World building fantasy often inundates the reader so quickly with new names, lore and terms its easy to get lost. Thankfully, Cardin introduces the reader to his world slowly. He doesn’t forget two critical concepts: character and action. Second, Cardin progresses the plot linearly, with few jumps. He gets you used to a character, a place, and a plot-line before taking the reader deeper. It paid off, as I never got lost and didn’t have to skip around re-looking up names and places. I could actually follow the lore, and understand the rules of this world’s magic with little effort. This allowed Cardin to slowly reveal a world that is both unique, yet builds on familiar tropes. I’ve read a few other works by this author, and found myself beginning to play ‘connect the dots’ with the world’s history and artifacts. Basically, I began to ‘geek’. For a fantasy author, that’s called mission accomplished.
My critiques are minor. The book had a noticeably heavy, serious tone. Warden could have used a bit more levity and romance, and sometimes the dialogue felt a tad too formal.
By keeping story elements initially simple and familiar, Cardin draws in the reader and reveals a fantasy world that both pays homage to the genre, yet is uniquely his own. Overall, I found The Final Warden a worthy read for hardcore fantasy fans, or those new to the genre.
Four Stars - Good book, recommended.
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Brian Braden is an assistant editor and co-founder of Underground Book Reviews. Read more about him here.