Sunday, September 23, 2018

The nuclear option

“A Magic Broken” is a short fantasy story by Vox Day. It functions as a prequel and teaser trailer to his mammoth work “Arts of Dark and Light” (two mastodon volumes published so far). I'm not a fantasy fan and will probably never read Day's magnum opus, and bought the prequel mostly because it was temporarily free of charge. But yes, I was surprised. Given Vox Day's reputation as the most infernal beast on the World Wide Web, I expected a dark and pessimistic story drenched in blood, gore and Nazi genocide. Every elf an Übermensch (or perhaps Überelf) and every slayed Orc an obvious stand-in for poor Third World migrants - that kind of stuff.

At least in “A Magic Broken”, Vox Day doesn't deliver on his dark materials, instead telling a rather straightforward fantasy tale. The plot has obvious similarities to George R R Martin's “A Song of Ice and Fire” (Day considers Martin a competitor), while the characters are more reminiscent of the various races found in Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings”. I admit that the story is well crafted. The characters are a motley array of thieves, slavers, vile aristocrats and mercenaries. No really good people seem to exist in this fantasy universe, in sharp contrast to Tolkien's Middle Earth. And yet, some of the characters are sort-of-likable and do seem to follow a honor code, in sharp contrast to most of the figures in Martin's stories. If you are a fantasy fan, or a medieval fiction fan, you might find yourself wanting more of this!

Since the plot contains several surprises, I will not reveal too much here, except to say that it revolves around a mysterious mercenary, a band of brothers, a corrupted aristocrat and a pearl of great price coveted by all protagonists. The treasure everyone seeks is hidden away in the least accessible town in Selenoth (as Vox Day's fantasy world is called). The races we encounter are men, elves, dwarves and the dwarf-like Tessini, while Orcs and trolls lurk in the background. In the end, we learn that the main character, a man presently calling himself Nicolas, wants a “war to end all wars” and is willing to conjure up primordial forces from the deep for that very purpose, forces perhaps better left undisturbed…

OK, let me guess. He *does* conjure them up in “Arts of Dark and Light”?

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