“The metallic smell of blood was overwhelming. The
dull crash of steel striking wooden and steel shields and
ringing off of enemy swords was loud enough to all but
drown out other noise. The twanging of bowstrings could
just be heard at the edge of the city as the defending archers
desperately tried to hold what remained of the walls from
an army that more than ten times outnumbered the meager
forces still inside of the city. The gate of the city was broken
and hanging on its hinges, and large portions of the walls
had fallen down, the results of the combined efforts of
Deshika siege engines and sappers, letting Deshik warriors
pour into the city by the thousands. No matter the number
of defenders elsewhere in the city, the Deshika were still
laying siege to the hundred foot tall battlements from both
sides in an attempt to take away the last high ground that
the defenders still had. And louder than anything were the
roars of gigantic beasts, like small, wingless dragons with
hard blue scales and long sharp teeth. “
The above opening sentences of Stephen Trolly’s Rising Vengeance perfectly set the stage for what is to follow, even if the scene is just a prescient dream by the main character, the human despising Taren Garrenin.
Taren is one of 10 a Morschcoda, the ruling council of the Ten Nations of Anaria, head of Drogoda, Lord of the Mordak, and Prince of House Garrenin. Hundreds of years old, he is one of the greatest swordsmen who ever lived. When we don’t see him in battle with the multi-limbed nine-foot tall monsters called the Deshika, we see him sitting with the council of the Morschcoda who meet annually anywhere from a week to two months discussing trade, war, treaties, governance. Because of his power and mental agility, Taren is, in many ways, the glue that binds the northern nations with those from the south, especially in strategizing how to mutually fight the relentless Deshika before many of the 10 nations begin fighting each other.
If the above description sounds like an elaborate and bloody epic of world-building, that’s certainly a large part of the picture. Anaria is a world where armies use normal weapons like swords and arrows, occasional futuristic science fiction devices like the portals that can transport people across long distances, flying dragons bearing riders, and magically-enhanced weapons and powers like special swords and rings and hitting an enemy with hot water geysers.
Trolly is quite vivid painting visual portraits of many of his characters, especially the members of the Morschcoda. What is missing from this canvas is much in the way of personal interaction. For much of the book, no one seems filled with passions, emotions, motivations or desires that might arise from any human relationships. Not until we spend time with Queen Guinira in her short captivity do we really learn much about a character’s inner depths, and that section reads like a turning point as a very different novel follows. From that point forward, the relentless clashes and battles become very personal indeed.
In other words, Trolly gives us a planet he describes with broad strokes and wide sweeps, but we’re not given many memorable characters to invest in or care about. So Rising Vengeance is a multi-faceted chess game that keeps reader interest by taking us deeper and deeper into the machinations, conflicts, and wars taking place all across the wide scope of the 10 nations of Anaria. And the saga has just begun.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Jan. 30, 2018: