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Strong Believable Characters Steal the Show

By Scott Scherr, author of Don't Feed The Dark

Jul 7, 2018: Note: I’ve read up through the third chapter in the third arc of this series. My review will focus primarily on the first two completed arcs:

The Vorrgistadt Saga begins on an ancient island, deep below the surface, in caverns of ice and mysteries, wonders and terrors, where the ghosts of a dead city still speak to those who possess the means to the hear them. Two oracles, a knight, and a cunning creature are brought together on a mission to explore the ruins of the past . . . in an attempt to save the future.

The second arc of this story centers around a young orphan girl and the warrior who adopted her. We get glimpses into her hardships and triumphs as she struggles to find her place among a people not her own, giving this a real coming-of-age vibe.

The third arc, still in progress, begins with a young Master Oracle, trying to maintain the principles of his long-dead predecessors, as he struggles to hold his position in a corrupted Order who don’t believe that he has any business being among them.

Due to potential spoilers, I’m going to limit my story synopsis to what I’ve mentioned above and speak specifically about what stood out about this well-crafted tale.

From the start, I was impressed at how fast the writer brought the characters from the first arc to life while plunging me into the darkness below the surface. By the time I reached the end of the first part of this story, I was already invested in the fate of these first four people. I’m a firm believer that if you can make your characters real—good, bad, or indifferent—they will carry the story, bringing you along for the ride as you discover their world through their eyes. The writer does an excellent job of pulling this off in the middle of the darkness.

The building tension in the first arc as characters whispered in the dark about historical fact versus ghost-story lore, created a real sense of dread toward monsters of myth unseen . . . but felt. You just know something terrible is coming long before it does, and that’s unnerving, making for a great page-turner.

Speaking of history, I appreciated the fact that the writer did not overwhelm me with story-killing exposition, weighing down the read with the dreaded page after page of “prologue”. Often, I’ve read stories in this genre that unnecessarily force-feed me every historical detail, with the names of people and places I couldn’t possibly keep up with long before allowing me entrance into the actual story. At the start of the Vorrgistadt Saga, there is a brief introduction from the pages of an ancient text that gives the reader the necessary “snapshot” into the state of the current world, but that’s about it. A big turn-off for me when reading stories in this genre is that some writers feel they need to define all their world-building and history up front, rather than let me experience it as the tale unfolds. What I thought was brilliant in this story was how the writer introduced me to relevant history through the explorative actions of the characters themselves as they re-discovered their own history down in the caverns, making me feel like I wasn’t reading some dry text book, but rather sharing in an archaeological adventure in progress.

As much as I enjoyed the first arc, I personally enjoyed the second arc much more because it allowed me to follow one character’s life and experience this world through this young girl’s eyes, getting a strong impression of the people left over and trying to thrive from a much darker time. Also, the writer really makes this young character, and her relationship with her adopted father, very real and endearing. What I found intriguing is that, in some ways, her story is just as relevant in our time, as it was hers, making this a very relatable character in many ways.

The attention to setting details in this story make it apparent that the writer has put a lot of thought into not only the locations, but how people lived in those locations, adding another level of depth that invites the reader into each moment. Setting can be as real as any character and take on a life of its own when done correctly as The Vorrgistadt Saga has. There were times when I tried to imagine myself living among the various people, sleeping on straw beds, or standing out on some majestic mesa, wrapped in robes, while the scorching double suns tried to roast me alive and make me blind . . . I don’t think I’d last very long without my modern-day conveniences.

As far as anything critical to add, there were a handful of times when I thought the writing was unnecessarily verbose, especially during fight scenes. I believe the writer may have over-explained actions in such scenes rather than letting the reader imagine it, occasionally slowing down the momentum. There were some repetitive word usages in the same sentences that were distracting at times, and the minimal typos expected while writing a serial novel. But overall, I found nothing that couldn’t be ironed out in the editing process over time, or that hindered me from enjoying this story.

As far as the overall plot, The Vorrgistadt Saga takes its time developing, focusing more on the journey rather than rushing to get to the end, with what appears to be a deliberate design for the arrangement of each arc. I love stories like this because I don’t read serials to hurry up and reach a conclusion, that’s what stand-alone novels are for.

All in all, The Vorrgistadt Saga was an enjoyable read for me with believable characters and equally believable settings. This is a well-grounded story. The characters steal the show so efficiently that I often forgot about the many supernatural elements involved, from the use of magic to mythical beasts. I was reminded a lot about The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan while reading, not because they’re anything alike, but because I remember getting lost in those strong character stories in the same way, which was what made that series so appealing to me many years ago, and this one now.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre, and anyone looking to read one for the first time. This is a good one.

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