Orison transports you another world, but be careful – here there be dragons.
I don’t like to write reviews, partially because I don’t know what will spoil the read for someone else. So I will tread carefully here. I really enjoyed reading Daniel Swensen’s Orison, finishing it in one sitting on a lovely snowy Saturday.
Orison is the tale of Story, a sort-of female Oliver Twist, and her drunken ex-sorcerer friend named Wrynn who unwittingly become embroiled in a complicated plot to start a war. She just wants to get the heck out of Calushain and he would like not to die. But really, it’s about more than just the two of them. Well-told in multiple perspectives, it’s a tapestry of intertwined lives at the mercy of complex coincidences that are really the whims of the cold dragon-gods. And while there were times I liked the Queen’s Guard, Ashen One-Howl, more than I liked Story, I enjoyed the entire cast as they tumbled toward each other, circling in ever tighter orbits around Penumbra’s plot for chaos. The dragon-god’s skill at manipulation could turn even an honorable refusal into just the right move to bring about ruin and war. What’s a person to do, when even the right choice is wrong?
The best part was the setting. I read fantasy mostly because I love cultural world-building. Not descriptions of alien places and wildly illogical things, but more the interwoven cloth of clashing cultures, and the people within (or just outside of) those societies. And in this respect, Orison was delightful – rich and deep in its own history, yet not delving into the past with the bluntness of a historical treatise. Each character’s background culture was visible in their thoughts and reactions, giving it a subtle depth I really appreciated.
Swensen’s portrayal of magic as a powerful foreign energy bound by certain laws and costs struck just the right balance of imaginative fireworks and systematic plausibility. But if you prefer swords to sorcery, don’t worry. There is plenty of that here for you, too.
If you’re looking for that next fantasy novel to satisfy your thirst for new worlds previously unseen, give Orison a read. I think you’ll find everything you’re looking for there.
Very well done, Daniel. A great first novel and I’m looking forward to the next one.
About the author: I met Daniel in the vibrant flash fiction blog hops of 2012, first on Twitter and then on FaceBook. A wonderful person and talented writer, he is funny and approachable and, from the photos I’ve seen, a damn good cook as well. His website http://surlymuse.com/ is definitely worth checking out.