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A True Epic, But Less Might Be More

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

May 29, 2018: Review up to EIII/II

IN SHORT: The Vorrgistadt Saga embraces its status as just that: a fantasy saga with some sprawling worldbuilding and detailed prose. Fans of the genre will find a detailed world illustrated with a technical proficiency with plenty chew on and mull over, but the joy Saga seems to take in its fantasy conventions may repel readers looking for a direct, easy read.

IN DEPTH: This is a review which I feel I must disclose my general ambivalence towards the fantasy genre. One of my favorite novels belongs to the genre (the sub-genre of ‘hard fantasy’, to be specific), but it’s very much atypical in regards to standard conventions and tropes.

The Vorrgistadt Saga is not, in that sense, atypical.

When I think about typical fantasy novel, I’m picturing a work that is steeped in the influence that Tolkein had on the genre. In no specific order, these works exhibit the following issues: prioritising worldbuilding over storytelling, florid/purple prose, and a pace that can be described as glacial.

Vorrgistadt Saga does not exactly buck the trend.

The story opens with five hundred words of prelude exposition, then five hundred words of what is, again, fairly typical for a fantasy story: landscape description. The detail on display here is often excruciating. Speaking personally, more prose keeps my brain working on reading and not on visualizing. This, I feel, is the flaw that runs through the entirety of The Vorrgistadt Saga.

The prose is overly verbose but it is not of poor quality either. But it does give off the impression that the author is not confident in their ability. There are multiple redundancies and a surplus of hedging phrases (as if, seemed like, etc.) It is also quite dry and distant, making the story feel like a guided tour, one where there’s a thick pane of glass between you and the display pieces.

Any problems in the prose arise from the aforementioned need to be verbose. Sentences will frequently use multiple words when one would do, or otherwise employ overly complex phrasings when simple sentences would suffice. This can lead to sentences with basic inaccuracies or phrasings that are nonsensical to a close reading.

I criticise some serials for leaning on telling instead of showing, and I’m afraid I’m going to tap Vorrgistadt for the opposite issue. As mentioned, this story feels like a guided tour. This is a serial that is so intent on showing us the world created by the author—and trust me, there’s a fairly in-depth world here—that it doesn’t quite make it clear why it matters. Too much telling can make a story feel robotic, but too much showing can make it unclear where the throughline of the story is.

Which is my next point. Vorrgistadt is a slow story and doesn’t really take off until Chapter 7 (some 16k words in) or Chapter 10—and where the story ends up in Chapter 15 might leave many readers struggling to continue. These chapters are not particularly long, but they feel so much longer than they are. The first chapters feel like four characters taking the reader through a cave in intricate detail, without much attempt to hook the reader. I can appreciate a good attempt at in media res, but that relies on establishing a setting and conflict that is easily understood. Vorrgistadt, with its dense worldbuilding and surplus of proper nouns, is not easily understood.

Fittingly, Vorrgistadt Saga has a true saga of a world. I can tell the author has put a lot of work into that aspect of the story and I imagine several weighty tomes of maps and encyclopediae but it lacks the context to make the reader care about them—or even infer what they are on a broad sense. When reading, I felt the continual need for some kind of world guide and found myself frequently employing the search function to make sure that I hadn’t inadvertently missed an explanation or some information where a character, for example, intones a name with a sense of great ominous import. It evoked Pillars of Eternity to me, which I’d level the same criticisms at, and several other fantasy texts. As mentioned, it’s a staple of the fantasy genre.

Characters communicate in the stately, courtly style that evokes a troupe of actors in a stageplay more than it does breathing characters. Unfortunately, the dialogue is frequently expository. I don’t feel as if I had an idea of who the characters were until about Chapter 7. I feel a lot of the information there should’ve come much earlier. Many emotional moments fell completely flat.

Grammar and spelling seem perfect. It’s unfortunate that the story would benefit so much from being cut down and condensed with the more illustrative character moments pushed earlier in the story.

All in all, I’ve read worse fantasy stories—even published ones. If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, with all the associated baggage, I think you’ll get a kick out of this particular saga. However, if you’re not a fan of this particular genre, I do not think The Vorrgistadt Saga can really offer anything to sway you.

3 for me, but I’d say it’s more of a 4 for fantasy fans.

As a final note, I really like the layout and design of the website, especially how the table of contents displays a word count and approximate reading time.

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