Filled with fantastical intrigue, diabolical trolls, and beautiful sorcerer fairies, David Bryan Russell’s debut novel is an imaginative read that sets itself apart from the usual fare of contemporary fantasy.
Focusing on Glys Erlendson, a 19-yr-old girl vacationing with her family in Norway, Russell’s Enchanters tells the tale about a young woman’s mental and physical transformation into a very strange adulthood. While spending time with her relatives, Glys enjoys the aesthetic countryside of Norway and tries to reconcile her idealistic notions of politics, the environment, and global injustice with the real world. A chance encounter with a mysterious woman named Leanya, however, changes Glys’ plans more than she could ever have imagined.
You see Glys happens to be a unique individual known as an Awakener, a person who has the ability to mature into one of humanity’s ancestral Hidden Folk. The mysterious Leanya recognizes what she is one day in the woods and gives her a small, magical item known as a vitann. This gem-encrusted object is the focus of her power and reflects her inner growth. Soon enough Glys’ transformation, as well as her vitann’s, is complete and the young woman finds herself in an altogether different world.
As Glys increases her knowledge of Mother Nature and learns how to use her powers in the lands of Myradelle (one of the last secluded groves of benevolent Hidden Folk Enchanters), a nefarious plot is being brewed by the evil Noctivolls. Running counterpart to the good-natured Enchanters, Noctivolls and shadowlings live off the anger and misery of humans and congregate in more urban environments.
One particularly nasty Noctivoll is plotting his return to the Underworld with dire consequences to the world above. For the sake of humans and Hidden Folk alike, the now estranged Glys must return to America to investigate these heinous crimes and put an end to his schemes of grandeur.
Russell’s first novel is a very enjoyable read that differentiates itself from other fantasy books with almost severe shifts in tonality. The first and third parts of the novel focus predominantly on the real world and here Russell’s writing flows freely while conjuring vivid imagery with ease. The middle of the book, however, describes the color-saturated realm of Myradelle where fantastical beings live in harmony with the land and everything is painted a brazen shade of light as if tie-dyed with fluorescent ink (much like the book’s cover).
Although the fantasy elements are incorporated rather well between the Myradelle and real world segments, Russell’s writing is a lot more cohesive and clear when a little more restrained. Only a few characters stand out as being multidimensional and most are rather static, a result from not being developed enough beyond their singular plot functions. Some of the first characters we’re introduced to, including Leanya and Glys’ guide to Myradelle Tarune, are mysteriously absent after a scant few pages following their introduction. The pacing of the book is quite atypical (the main conflict is not even established until 2/3rds of the way in) yet doesn’t impede the novel’s forward momentum and only further accentuates its unique shifts in tone and mood.
Regardless of its flaws, David Bryan Russell’s first novel is a breath of fresh air for the fantasy genre. Russell’s second installment, The Shining Realm, is in the works now.