Having experimented in comic scripting, poetry, and screenwriting, under-the-radar author Chad Corrie has developed a lot of practice writing within the sci fi, horror, and contemporary fiction genres. A couple years ago he was picked up by publisher Aspirations Media Inc. and has since been working hard to finish The Divine Gambit Trilogy, his first fantasy series. The final volume, Gambit’s End, is slated for release this June but before delving into that let’s see how the series opener, Seer’s Quest, stacks up with Mania.
Seer’s Quest, like any first installment of an original fantasy series, introduces us to a new world, in this case the realm of Tralodren. Corrie does a relatively good job of establishing the nuances of this new land through two primary characters: Rowan and Dugan.
Rowan, a young Nordican from the frigid northland of Valkoria, has just passed his training to become a servant of the goddess Panthor. Newly raised to knighthood, the clean-cheeked paladin sets off on a dangerous mission across the sea and into the Midland isles where strange reports indicate that an ancient reservoir of knowledge has been found in the jungle regions of Takta Lu Lama.
Dugan, a bronzed human slave who has spent his entire life as a gladiator, has just escaped from the bloodthirsty grip of the Elven Republic. During his escape he encounters a beautiful yet strange, gray-skinned Patrious elf named Clara. A much different elf from those of the Republic, Clara has been sent by her mentor to find Dugan and to bring him to a gathering of mercenaries that are coincidentally on the same quest that Rowan has been sent on.
After their escape Dugan and Clara meet up with Rowan as well as Vinder, a freelance dwarf, Cadrissa, a young human mage, and Gilban, the blind prophet who has foreseen the group’s destiny. Together they must battle the warring intentions of gods, a sinister otherworldly force vying for entrance into Tralodren, and themselves as their journey leads them deep into unknown jungles.
This book does a lot of great things in mixing up the fantasy genre but its overall momentum suffers under the weight of a couple major flaws. Chad Corrie’s first fantasy novel is noticeably that, a first foray into a genre as diverse as it is unforgiving. The plot offers a few surprises but some of the character conflicts that are built up over the course of the book tended to fizzle out when they should have been roaring into flame. At times the novel’s pacing is as clunky as some of Corrie’s sentence structure.
Yet one of the most difficult aspects of writing fantasy, especially in series, is creating a credible universe to paint your picture. Here Corrie excels by re-imagining traditional fantasy stereotypes and making them believable. The majority of the Elven race are sinister, Roman-like foils of our earlier selves, turning the conventional image of the ‘noble elf’ on its head. The dwarves and hobgoblins are fleshed out in similarly unique ways, creating racial identities that aren’t just different for the sake of being different, but rather are those that mesh intimately with the world of Tralodren and its history. Corrie’s take on gods and goddesses (and their power to influence things in Tralodren) I can only describe as being similar to George R.R. Martin’s treatment where anything is possible but often misunderstood.
Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh on the grading of this book because the meat of it is quite a good read. If the story structure and editing only got a little more polish the rating would jump by a letter grade if not more. Yet Seer’s Quest is only the first slice in a three-piece pie and we’ll have to see how the next installment fairs at anchoring the trilogy as a whole.