Gideon’s Dawn, by Michael D. Warden

gideons-dawn-by-michael-d-warden coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Barbour and Co.
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Ray Wallace

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OVERVIEW: A new fantasy tale dealing with a young man from Earth who suddenly finds himself in a strange world. Once there he is thrust headlong into a centuries old conflict between the forces of creation and destruction.

DETAILS: The world of Gideon’s Dawn is one that any avid fantasy reader will find familiar terrain but is also unique in enough ways to offer its fair share of surprises. The continent on which the bulk of the novel takes place is known as The Inherited Lands. It is filled with the usual assortment of odd and colorful place names: Songwill, Deathland Barrens, Dunerun Hope, Heaven Range, Wordhaven, and Strivenwood to name a few. The Lands are a place of sweeping plains and deep forests, of soaring mountain ranges and enchanted cities.

All in all it is a more than suitable backdrop for an epic adventure. It is the system of magic in use within the Lands, however, that sets this imaginary realm apart from so many others. All sorcery there is based around two powerful magic languages: Dei’lo, the “good” language which is based upon the power of creation, and Sa’lei, the “evil” language which is, conversely, based upon the power of destruction.

At the time in which the book takes place a group of dark wizards well-versed in Sa’lei known as the Council Lords have for the last few centuries ruled the Lands with the proverbial iron fist. Doing what it can to thwart the might of the Council Lords is an opposing group of Dei’lo rebels known as the Remnant. Much of the Dei’lo tongue has been lost or forgotten over time so the Remnant are having a rather difficult time in countering the dark will of the Council. Enter Gideon Dawning….

Gideon is a disgruntled young man with a rather strange name from the mundane world of Earth. There he works at a college where he has no friends accept for his cat and suffers from the occasional outburst of violent rage that overcomes him while he sleeps. He has fallen out of touch with his family, even his brother with whom he was once very close, and we discover as the events of the story unfold a deep and awful secret that has obviously led to this sad state of affairs.

Early in the book Gideon is sent to Colorado where he is to lead a team of students in an investigation of a fault line located within the Rocky Mountains. While there an earthquake occurs and Gideon is buried alive after he falls into a crack in the earth from which he later emerges to find himself in the Inherited Lands. And so the adventure begins.

Within moments of his arrival within the Lands, Gideon comes face to face with a Guardian, a soldier in service of the Council, who uses magic to burn alive a defenseless young girl. A storm then comes out of nowhere and bolts of lightning blast down from the sky to slay the Guardian and his fellow soldiers. This is an act of sorcery attributed to Gideon by the local villagers even though he has no idea how such a thing could be done. And just like that Gideon’s lot is cast — he is now an enemy of the Guardians and thus the Council itself.

It would seem he has little choice but to accept the protection of the Remnant. Shortly he finds himself journeying along with a group of rebels, their destination the Remnant stronghold of Wordhaven. Adventures ensue and Gideon is proclaimed by some as the Kinsman Redeemer, a legendary figure prophesied to bring about great change within the Inherited Lands. Whether this change will be for good or ill is yet to be decided….

Gideon’s Dawn is sure to draw many comparisons to Stephen R. Donaldson’s dark and wonderfully unique epic The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Both revolve around deeply flawed main characters drawn from Earth into their respective imaginary lands, each of whom are then proclaimed to be the modern incarnation of ancient legend. And each of these characters brings with him an artifact from his home world that suddenly finds itself possessed of magical powers — Thomas Covenant’s white gold wedding ring and Gideon Dawning’s staff of Earthen wood. And, of course, each of these anti-heroes finds himself at the center of an ages old conflict in which he is a very unwilling participant.

All of that said Michael Warden’s book has its own original voice and contains some of the best scenes of magical combat to be found in any realm of fantasy. The book flows with a smooth pace much like the Whey River that runs through the heart of the Inherited Lands and is peopled with a cast of interesting characters not soon forgotten. The history of this mythical world is rich and deep and many of the locales are beautifully depicted. There is no doubt that any fan of epic fantasy will enjoy this journey a lot more than Gideon himself does and find his or herself looking forward to the sequel that’s sure to come.

BOTTOME LINE: A well-plotted page turner of an adventure story from a fresh new voice in the world of fantasy fiction. The first book of what promises to be a very engaging multi-part epic.

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