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WAYFARING PRINCESS

If one have faith, it may be that he shall behold the gods

By Snuggle Squiggle, author of Endless Stars

May 6, 2019: Wayfaring Princess is Greek fantasy. It’s got a definite historical vibe — most evident in the dialogue, which feels stilted at first but once you’re used it, has an appreciable tinge of verisimilitude.

But I think the best genre descriptor for Wayfaring is one you don’t see discussed or tossed very often: epic.

There’s a sort of character design you see a lot in modern fiction, and it’s what most of the writing books and articles you’ll find implore you to apply. It’s designing characters around flaws and weakness, creating troubled folks whom we sympathize with and pity.

You could say Wayfaring Princess never got this memo, and it’s not worse off for it. Wayfaring Princess does not, to be clear, have Mary Sues. But the main cast of Wayfaring have less in common with characters of the modern tendency, than characters like Superman or Goku. They’re heroes more capable and more virtuous than an ordinary bloke, and instead of pitying them, we admire them, marvel at them. And all the same, we want to see more of them.

The conflict in the story, then, comes largely from external to the characters. Which brings me to the plot, which is simple and does what it needs to do. The story rotates between three characters, each playing their own part: a princess who wants to help people, a kind master archer who wants to serve the princess and not-so-secretly has a crush on her, and lastly a reluctant demigod (I think) who at first just want to laze about in his kind-of paradise.

As you could guess from the rotating perspectives, there are a few plot strands — but not a ton and it’s not a trick to follow them all. All of them revolve, to one degree or another, around this cult-summoned demon who wants to kill and eat a whole bunch of people. On the surface, not complex ambiguous stuff, but it doesn’t need to be.

The ambiguity and interest, I feel, comes from the racial tension present in the setting between two ethic groups, the helots and the Histrians who are subjugating them. While the demon on a rampage is the focus for the first part of the plot (this review was written at the release of chapter 7), it’s clear just putting an arrow through it’s head won’t solve all their problems.

Speaking of the setting, it’s worth saying a few words about it. It’s ancient Greece, so you’ll have to get used to odd old words like himation, but there aren’t many and you won’t have to sit through any exposition dumps. There’s magic in this setting, but it hasn’t been lain out exactly how it works or what sort of limits it has. Altogether the setting gives the work a unique feel, but it’ clear the setting isn’t quite a focus.

Decent interesting characters, decent interesting plot, serviceable setting — what about the presentation? The prose, I believe, is simultaneously a strength and a weakness. While highly polished, Wayfaring has a kind of restrained writerly voice which is easy to liken to a slow-tempo song — perfectly functional, but it simply doesn’t deliver the kind of visceral excitement a serial with more lively prose provides. If you fall into its rhythm, though, you’ll find it does deliver some subtler joys.

That said, the prose isn’t strong enough to make it selling point, and it tends to fall into the same trap I’ve seen in many writerly serials — monotonous fight scenes. When things get actiony in Wayfaring, not very much seems to change in the voice, it remains as restrained and dignified as ever. There’s no added force or heft, the prose becomes no more gripping.

It creates a kind of form/content dissonance akin to that gaffe of describe an action as very quick with a rather long sentence.

I like Wayfaring Princess. It’s a world with interesting ideas, a plot with possibilities, and characters I can remember. It’s a serial I will recommend, though not strongly. The hardest part, I feel, is I can’t find any outstanding aspect of it I can point to and say "if this appeal to you, try Wayfaring Princess".

It’s a well-written Greek fantasy with magic and romance. If that sounds cool (it is), go check it out.

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