One of the most difficult things about reviewing a friend’s book is not merely the challenge of writing objectively about it, but avoiding looking for your friend in the characters he creates. And given Sean Froyd‘s love of beer, I assumed he had based Rolig the Dwarf on himself. Early in Inanis the Hooded, that diminutive figure loses his cool when discovering that the beer in his tankard has suddenly (and inexplicably) turned sour.
I would expect a similar reaction from Sean if a tankard of his beloved beverage did not meet his exacting expectations.
While I enjoyed Sean’s book, it was clear this was his first effort at a sustained narrative. The prose at times was clunky with a few sentences which fell flat while others seemed contrived. But, despite the occasional awkward language, the book did on the whole read well. More importantly, the story was richly imagined. Sean succeeded in creating an interesting fantasy realm with an engaging quest.
The very beginning reminded me of Michael Crichton’s debut novel, The Andromeda Strain (the inspiration for the eponymous 1971 movie) when an old man finds a baby alive after the plague has ravaged a town. In Crichton’s book, an old man a a baby are a town’s only survivors when a space ship bearing an alien virus lands nearby.
From there, we jump ahead several years to the village of Ternwas, as yet unaffected by the plague where we see some tension between the aforementioned beer-loving dwarf and a teenager in his charge, Henki, a girl with unusual powers. When the plague later wipes out all in the town except this pair, they set off in search of the aged Inanis to see if he can help find a means of stopping the plague.
On their journey, they encounter a variety of obstacles, both supernatural and otherwise. And once they find the hooded shaman, they must make it to the “bell city” of Jang Si Dor where he can help the one-time foundling learn to use her powers. (For that foundling has grown up to be our heroine.)
Like many authors of good fantasy fiction, Sean has created a variety of unusual beings, which have unnatural powers as well as unexpected weaknesses. As I learned about these creatures, I learned a little bit more about my friend. And even saw elements of some of the myths we studied together in several passages.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and wanted to know what happened to the characters after they completed their quest and wanted to know more about the world my friend had created. I wish he had fleshed out its history a little more than he had, putting that into his story as Tolkien had done in his Lord of the Rings.
While the book is rough at times, it is a good read. It has elements of some of the best fantasy books. And I found it much more enjoyable than a good number of works which have been published by large presses. By contrast, Sean published this book on his own.
The real advantage of self-publishing is that my friend can make his story available to the world without meeting the expectations of various publishers with their own expectations of what is marketable and their own ideas about a book’s merits. And that’s not the only advantage. We can see the first works of authors who have not yet reached their potential.
Engaging as the book is, it is clearly a first effort at narrative fiction. And while Inanis shows some similarities to the works of such gifted writers of fantasy fiction as J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks and Stephen Donaldson, my friend has not yet reached their level.
But, it is clear from reading this book that he has the capacity to do so. Each of them was older than Sean when he published the work which secured his reputation as a leading author of fantasy fiction.
With his commitment to story-telling and persistent effort, Sean Froyd will no doubt soon enter their ranks. And those of us who read his book today will be able to see the development of one of the future leading writers in the fantasy genre while exploring a world different than our own and enjoying a good tale.
We should be grateful for the opportunities that self-publishing allows and grateful to Amazon for providing a marketplace for self-published works. A friend of mine was able to publish the first of what is sure to be a large and engaging body of work. And readers like you and me can discover a story which the powers that be in the publishing industry (for whatever reason) might otherwise have ignored.