The Twilight Reign series by Tom Lloyd
(Note: This review originally appeared in Ray Gun Revival 53, June 2009)
The Stormcaller and The Twilight Herald by Tom Lloyd
Pyr, 2008, 2009, 449 pp., 503 pp.
In a land ruled over by distant, capricious gods, a young man named Isak has been plucked from poverty to be the heir of the Duke of Farlan. Isak is a white-eye, born larger and more powerful than most men, a representative of the gods among humanity. As he grows into his new position, he learns that the land is facing a time of struggle the likes of which it has never seen since ages ago when mortals battled with and even slew gods.
The Stormcaller and The Twilight Herald are the first two volumes in Tom Lloyd’s high fantasy series, “The Twilight Reign.” The series is projected to run to five volumes, with the third already published in Lloyd’s native U.K. (Pyr has it scheduled for release later this year in North America.)
The Stormcaller presents Isak finding his way in his new environment, drawing friends and allies to himself (and making enemies), learning to lead men into battle and to control the magic within himself. Isak is a likeable character, but indecisive the way an eighteen-year-old youth can be. I often found it unclear what motivated him, his decisions often seeming to stem from mere impulse.
Fortunate for Lloyd, the characters around Isak are extremely entertaining and vivid. These other characters take much more of the stage in The Twilight Herald. Dark forces in the minor city of Scree draw a wide range of people to it. Isak’s ally, King Emin, who seeks revenge for crimes against his nation and his queen. Princess Zhia, an ancient woman cursed with vampirism and compassion. Doranei, member of Emin’s elite forces, who finds himself falling for Princess Zhia. Count Vesna, Isak’s right-hand man, with a reputation as an irresistible lover and unbeatable soldier, who now finds himself falling in love and hating war.
And this is all setting the stage for a cosmic battle of good versus evil. Or perhaps better, order versus chaos. Unlike a number of high fantasies out there that I could name but won’t, one feels there is a point to all this. Lloyd is trying to tell a definite story, not writing tomes for the sake of writing tomes.
The style of Lloyd’s prose is rich, but not overly so. To use an image from architecture, if Tolkien is a parish church in English perpendicular Gothic, Lloyd would be a chateau in the French Baroque. He excels especially at the vivid description of battle and other action sequences.
The question still may remain why readers of RGR might be interested in Lloyd’s work. A first answer would be the battle scenes just mentioned. Space opera is all about adventure, and Lloyd’s series has adventure aplenty.
But within the adventure, there are larger issues at work. Questions of good and evil. Belief and disbelief. The consequences of individual choices. The roles of destiny and free will. Speculative fiction remains a literary venue where such meaningful questions can be raised. Space opera and fantasy are at their best when a human story wrestles with human values. Lloyd has a very human story, and I look forward to see how it continues.
(Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt)