"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

27 March 2012

Review: Wothlondia #1: Distant Familiarity & Wothlondia #2: A Rose in Bloom - Gary Vanucci

Both of these short stories were so kindly sent to me by the author, Gary Vanucci. I was very eager to read his a fantasy work after reading some great stuff about it. He has written a fantasy novel Covenant of the Faceless Knights: Beginnings, which I'm currently reading, and has written two short stories to accompany the novel. Distant Familiarity, discusses the events that lead up to the beginning of the novel and A Rose in Bloom, discusses the one of the characters within the novel, a rogue; Rose. I enjoyed both but I hope to return to them both after I have finished the novel and hopefully I'll pick up on a few more things and have a better appreciation for them both. I'd also like to point out the wonderful illustrations on the cover, which were illustrated by William Kenney, who's novel A Dream of Storms, I enjoyed thoroughly, and who led me to learn of Gary's work! :)

Here's my review for Distant Familiarity:

4/5 - Enjoyed it! A great introduction for the novel!

I decided to read both of the Wothlondia short stories before diving in to read The Covenant of the Faceless Knights. Distant Familiarity, is a very short story that takes place before the action of Vanucci’s novel, and lays down the foundation for what is going to happen. I find it hard to get too involved and caught up in short stories because of the length, but this didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the tale. Although I haven’t read the main novel yet, I do like the idea of having a series of short stories that help fatten out the story, the characters and the history. Sometimes you just can’t put everything you want to say into the main story so I really like the fact that these stories won’t be untold and forgotten but have been jotted down to just add another layer to the story. Anyway, I always enjoy having more to read when I especially enjoy a story and I know I haven’t read the main novel yet but it sounds just like something I’d enjoy so I’m looking forward to it. It would be interesting also to return to the short stories after read the novel, to see if you understand and pick up on things a little more.

In Distant Familiarity, we are transported into the fantasy Realm of Ashenclaw and introduced immediately to the three protagonists in the short story; Tiyarnon, the High Priest of the Shimmering One, Nimaira, the beautiful half-elven Guild Mistress of Wizardry and Rolin, the dwarf. They are eagerly discussing pursuing a certain amulet, a phylactery that was with with a certain group of apprentices. We are instantly thrown into the story and are taken on the journey with the three friends. The climax of the short story is great; jam-packed with action, fast-paced and slightly disconcerting because you are not fully aware of what will happen. I picked up on the sense of foreboding towards the climax of the story. I won’t spoil it too much but I instantly knew that something was out of place and things weren’t as they should be. I enjoy reading descriptions that create a sense of foreboding, and make you feel slightly uncomfortable as a reader, because you may see that things are wrong when the characters themselves do not.

The only reason why I didn’t give it a full five stars was because I just wanted more. I realise that it was written as a short story so therefore all the information that I wanted couldn’t be added to it. I wanted to know of all the adventures that Tiyarnon, Nimaira and Rolin had been on in their lifetimes and wanted to know more of Cyrza. So please can we have a book all about them?! And, as I said earlier I do find it a little bit harder to get completely immersed in a short story, but on the whole I enjoyed it thoroughly and it has really made me want to read the novel sooner rather than later.

I thought that the writing style of the author was highly imaginative and suited the fantasy novel perfectly. There was plenty of detailed descriptions and authentic dialogue; key elements that I believe are paramount to make a fantasy story enjoyable. It was definitely a nice little taster for the bigger novel that is to come. I would definitely recommend this short story for people who love fantasy and want a little taste of Vanucci’s works before immersing themselves in The Covenant of the Faceless Knights.

Here's my review for A Rose in Bloom:

4/5 - Great, enjoyable, fast-paced read :)

I decided to read both of the Wothlondia short stories before reading Vanucci’s novel The Covenant of the Faceless Knights. A Rose in Bloom was my favourite of the two short stories, mainly because it was little more gritty and more action packed than Distant Familiarity. There’s betrayal, prostitution and thievery; the author isn’t afraid of describing sex and gore. I do enjoy traditional fantasy but ever since reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I have read a lot more dark and gritty fantasy and completely enjoyed it.

Rose is depicted as a strong, independent young girl who works in a brothel, after years of mistreatment and misery. I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t reading some description of a young pure and defenceless damsel in distress; Rose is sexually provocative, intelligent and able to fend for herself, shown in her expert thieving. She seems to have a wild side and is a bit of a fighter, so I’m really looking forward to seeing her character develop throughout the main novel. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Rose is introduced in the Covenant of the Faceless Knights. Her expertise as a thief and skill with a blade will surely make her a fine companion on any quest. I’m also interested in seeing more of Rose’ special ability and seeing how it will be used in the novel, and also maybe an explanation of how exactly she has such an ability in the first place.

From the beginning, I was thrown head first into the action of this short story and became embroiled in Rose’ life and future. There is something exciting happening on every page, whether it is a description of Rose’ special ability, her fiery relationship with Ganthorpe or her fighting or thieving. I like books that don’t really let me have a little rest from all the action but just constantly bombards’ me with excitement page after page; after all, I don’t want to get bored. The climax of this story is just nail biting and you are never quite sure how it will all end, and may be slightly shocked at the outcome. Vanucci has a great way of creating an immense feeling of foreboding in his stories. I could tell that something wasn’t quite right with Saphirra, and the action that follows is evidence of the betrayal that seeps into the story. You know your reading a good story when the text is full of emotion, that stirs the emotions of the reader; one minute you could feel joyful and the next a sense of disconcertion and unfamiliarity.  

After reading the two short stories I am confident that I will thoroughly enjoy the Covenant of the Faceless Knights. Vanucci has a wonderful flare for writing fantasy, with detailed descriptions, authentic and suitable dialogue and a brilliant sense of emotion and tone within the stories themselves. You truly believe that this is a real, authentic fantasy world. They’re both little starters giving you a taste of what is to come. A Rose in Bloom is gritty, dark and sensuous, a short story that stirred up my emotions, surprised me a little and left me wanting more. 

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