Friday, 29 March 2013

Review: Exiles of Arcadia (Legionnaire) by James Gawley

This is a historical fantasy novella (I’d guess around 40,000 words) set in a clearly Roman(ish) world (they're called Arcadians rather than Romans). I tend not to read shorter stories, but downloaded it when it was free and I'm glad I did.

The protagonist is a youthful soldier named Primus, son of a noted officer who supported a rebellious general. The general lost, and so Primus and the army with whom he has lived most of his life are in the wilderness, far from Arcadia.

The story moves along at a fair lick, and the book has practically no padding at all. There are one or two scenes that refer to events within Arcadia, with an entirely separate cast, but I feel that these would be better either being axed or added to. As it is they feel a bit isolated and don't add that much to the story.

The author does a good job of creating problems and dilemmas for Primus that are serious, without immediately plunging head first into End Of The World territory. A few more secondary characters to back up Primus perhaps would have helped flesh him and the world out a little more.

The central storyline revolves around Primus' enemy Varro and his own promotion to the extrordinarii (must admit it slightly irked me that the A was missing). The plot is tight and cohesive, and the fast pace stops things getting bogged down. More than once I intended to read a single chapter and ended up reading two or three.

As regular readers will now I am somewhat into classical history, and whilst it's fantasy I was still pretty pleased to see that the Arcadians are close enough to the Romans that nothing seriously jarred.  

The back of the book indicates that whilst this is his sole effort to date Mr. Gawley will be writing more, and I'll try and keep my eye out for his future works.

So, to conclude: it's a good, fast story. The non-Primus part of the story could be axed, and the writing quality's pretty good.


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