Verdict: Replete with its own magical arcana system and intriguingly wrought dialogue, THE WARRIOR'S BANE is a slow-building adventure that delivers on its intent to both entertain and intrigue.
Alaezdar, son of the famous mage Valvektor-Sor, decided to be a mercenary swordsman instead of becoming a wizard like his father. His plan to shirk his father’s profession, however, did not turn out as he had hoped, as the mercenary guild he joined has disowned him for killing one of their own members. (His comrade was about to slay a child when Alaezdar became incensed and interfered in the mission.) For this, Alaezdar is being hunted, and a price is on his head. Alaezdar finds sanctuary in the agrarian village of Valewood, where he becomes acquainted with a pretty girl and tends livestock at a ranch, a point in the narrative at which the novel commences. His doldrum life is abruptly torn asunder when gronts, a type of vile orc, enters the village, causing mayhem and arson and stealing away his love interest, Aaelie. Very soon, the novel sets into high-paced adventure as Aldzear, accompanied by some trusty farmers and warriors in Valewood, sets out to rescue Aaelie.
We might be tempted to think the plot line is formula-based, but this isn’t so much as a veneer description of the story’s content suggests. For one, Alaezdar isn’t a quintessential high-fantasy nobleman, like Aragorn in Tolkien’s works, who drops even thoughts of his own safety on a whim. Rather, in the vein of George RR Martin, McDaniel’s Alaezdar is a more calculating, even Machiavellian counterpoint to such a concept. For example, Alaezdar, when he learns of Aaelie’s disappearance, doesn’t abruptly jump into the fray to rescue her. Rather, in an ironic twist for a fantasy story of this ilk, his companions have to nudge, and even force, him to save the damsel in distress. Another thing that distances the book from its high-fantasy origins is Alaezdar’s own mercenary guild, which, author David L. McDaniel points out several times, took on almost any assignment if the price was right regardless of motivations or ethics behind the mission.
For this reason, we may find it hard to respect Alaezdar. But he may at least partially redeem himself in the mid-section of the book with a sacrificial act, which almost brings an emotive response. “Almost emotive” is the right term, because throughout the book, we find visceral emotion is somewhat sidelined to cold, calculating logistics. This is perhaps the book’s central failing, though it does have some surprisingly original dialogue and some interesting debates about the interplay of two different types of magic in the world.
Replete with its own magical arcana system and intriguingly wrought dialogue, THE WARRIOR’S BANE is a slow-building adventure that delivers on its intent to both entertain and intrigue.
~MP Gunderson for IndieReader