After surviving shipwrecks and spending years stranded as a young boy on an island, Krell washes up on the docks of Watford, called as a paladin to serve the god of the seas and skies, ReckNor. ReckNor doesn’t usually call paladins, but he sees something in Krell that he likes—a stubborn will to survive, a certain reckless, naive bravery. Once Krell completes his training with his mentor, he joins the quaint port town to answer the call of a charter seeking fighters. Soon, Krell is thrust into a group of squabbling yet skilled warriors, a human among orcs, halflings, and fey-touched. The reluctant team takes on different quests put forth by Watford’s town council, annihilating cave-dwelling creatures in a dwarven mine, defeating a shipload of smugglers, facing off with snarling beasts, and beating back an invasion of bloodthirsty sea devils. While Krell finds himself drawn to each quest—and sometimes a side-quest—by listening to the thunderous voice of his god ReckNor, his companions are enticed by glory, battle, and the promise of a handsome reward.
Although the nuance of more emotional, character-driven aspects is lacking in Krell’s social awkwardness and nonexistent understanding of society—after spending years of his young life alone, marooned on an island—makes for a consistent arc. He’s a fierce warrior, but he’s clueless about money, social cues, drinking customs, and romantic relationships, to the delight of his teasing cohorts. And author Bryan Cole does a decent job of showing different shades of arrogance, not just Krell’s as a god-favored paladin. From the fey-touched sorcerer Tristan whose magic is unmatched, to Daylan, the scheming member of Watford’s town council, egos clash everywhere. Even amongst other members of the charter, there’s traces of arrogance disguised as confidence and authority, like Orca, the abrasive, self-appointed leader, and Olgar, Krell’s perpetually drunk mentor. Though the side characters in ‘s BEGINNING OF ARROGANCE are sometimes one-note and remain static in their development, and the dialogue can be over-the-top—especially to display Tristan’s obnoxious ego, and with an excessive use of exclamation points throughout—the various personalities often create interesting conflict in the heat of battle.
Since there are so many characters coming and going, it can be difficult to keep all of them straight when they aren’t given much detail beyond a lean physical description and a power or skill. However, this constantly evolving cast of characters does push and pull the plot into new, exciting directions, and the overall development of Krell’s team as they work together is an enjoyable one. The battle sequences, of which there are many, are well-choreographed, lending themselves to the book’s fast pace despite its lengthy page count. It feels a bit like Dungeons & Dragons, or a high fantasy video game, with its blend of sword and sorcery and focus on ReckNor’s healing power to see them through the bloodiest wounds. Krell’s repetitive discussions about ReckNor’s will and his chaotic god’s belief system gets somewhat tiresome after a while, but the way he communicates with this mysterious deity and how his powers shift and grow over the course of the book add another layer to the narrative that will certainly be interesting to explore further. The world building is solid, and there are plenty of evils and fearsome beasts for Krell and his companions to defeat in future books.
A fast-paced high fantasy quest in the tradition of Dungeons & Dragons with bloody, action-packed battle sequences aplenty, Bryan Cole’s BEGINNING OF ARROGANCE features solid world building, a strong protagonist, and a spirited cast of familiar fantasy characters.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader