Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review: Voices From Below by E. A. Rappaport

Voices From Below is the tale of ex-thief Halia and her companion, ax-wielding warrior Xarun, as they try to rescue their deceased friend, the wizard Minaras, from the underworld. 

The protagonists are more moral than many fantasy characters cast from a similar mold. Halia was once a thief (justified since she grew up scrounging on the streets), and Xarun has a history of cruelty and tyranny, but both are working hard to grow beyond their pasts and actively help others as their friend Minaras once did.

Paralleling their quest is the story of Oswynn, an apprentice mage who suddenly finds himself without a master and with access to powerful transmutation spells. Oswynn knows he is working with dangerous magic, but the allure of its power is too strong and he will have to face severe consequences for his actions

Also paralleling Halia and Xarun’s adventure is the revenge quest of Inar, a woodcarver who lost his brother to a wizard’s magic. Much of Inar’s plot is driven by his own deep-seated prejudice, and while the leaps of logic he makes may seem ludicrous at times, his delusional thinking is all too disturbingly realistic.

Voices is the seventh of nine books that form an “interlocking matrix” of several series which all share books between them but emphasize different characters and themes from each volume. Despite being in the middle of the series, Voices contains enough references to previous events for a reader to easily piece together what has gone before. It is a big credit to Rapapport’s storytelling that he can make this tale stand on its own reasonably well, though it will definitely help to read the other books in the matrix.

My biggest critique of Voices is that the characters’ emotional reactions often seem dulled and stilted. Characters never seem to be truly sad or angry, even if their words suggest it. Dialogue can also be too expository and matter-of-fact at times. While thankfully no one ever uses the dreaded “as you know”, their call-backs to previous books can swerve dangerously close at times.

Despite their often flat emotions, the characters themselves are interesting and believable. The world has plenty of creativity with lots of story potential. It’s not a perfect read, but fans of fantasy adventure- especially of fast-paced, quest-based plots like the Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons shared-world novels- will enjoy it.

You can get a copy of Voices From Below on Amazon or at the author's web site, Owl King Publishing, LLC