Sunday, April 26, 2015

GnomeSaga: Cogweaver review

    GnomeSaga is a high fantasy series designed to evoke the countless five dollar novels released by TSR and Wizards of the Coast in the Nineties. Dungeons and Dragons fiction was never the height of its genre but rarely failed to entertain as well. Set on an unnamed world, GnomeSaga invokes most of the tropes of a Dungeons and Dragons game while also putting its own spin on events.

    It also stars gnomes.

    Cogweaver is the third volume in the series and the climax of the series' initial plotline. One could easily consider this the finale of a trilogy but I'm pleased to say it is only the ending of the first batch of stories. Too many authors stretch out their plotlines without much in the way of progress and thus wear their fans to the quick. Kenny Soward is smart enough to give closure to a story which didn't need to be prolonged and I appreciate that.

    The series follows brother and sister Nikselpik and Niksabella as they attempt to deal with an invasion from another dimension. The evil Baron wants to control all of the ultraworlds and he has a near-unstoppable force to do so. Throwing the entire dynamic into whack is the pair's mother, a gnome who is close to becoming a goddess and opposes the Baron. Unfortunately, their mother is a complete psychopath who is more interested in controlling Niksabella than fighting tyranny.

    Cogweaver resolves the story between these characters in a surprising manner. Given the relatively sedate pace of the second volume, I was expecting the Baron arc to drag out five-to-seven books. As a result, Cogweaver has a fast-pace and rapid set of twists which make the book the best of the initial three. Really, they could have stretched things out a little more but I have no complaints about how fast they resolved things.

    Much of the novel follows the pair as they deal with the ultraworld invasion. This is a high fantasy war novel with Nikselpik serving as First Wizard while Niksabella struggles behind the lines to free the Stonekin from their slavery. Kenny Soward has a gift for PG-13 fantasy violence, never really getting grim and gritty but keeping things entertaining throughout.

    The characterization is enjoyable, too, with Nikselpik's failed relationship with priestess Fara contrasting nicely with Termund and Niksabella's love story. I also like the dose of realism the book provides: how does a Lawful Good priestess reconcile herself with her love of a Neutral (and evil-ish) Necromancer?

    The answer? She doesn't.

    Doomed relationship is doomed.

    And bravo to the author for that.

    The climax of the novel isn't the defeat of the Baron or his armies, though, but an ascension ritual which has been built-up for the past two books. I was, initially, skeptical of introducing a plot about the ascension of gods into an otherwise enjoyable war story but I think it works out well. I saw the ending coming a mile away but was still moved by the consequences of it. Plus, I was glad Nikselpik finally managed to confront his mother about the decades of abuse he'd suffered at her hands.

    The ending is both well-done as well as bittersweet. Not everyone survives to the very end of the story and even the greatest of triumphs comes at a terrible cost. I find the survival of one character rather eye-rolling, especially given how his death played an important role in the story. The fact his survival doesn't do anyone any good, however, was a nice subversion.

    In short, if you liked the previous books, buy this one. If you haven't read the series, I heartily recommend giving it a try if you love Dungeons and Dragons, high fantasy, or quirky adventures in general.


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