Write for yourself, or write for your audience? It’s a question that many authors struggle to answer. Writing for an audience may seem like obvious advice, but success can be elusive. On the contrary, the satisfaction of writing for yourself can be fleeting when it feels like your work is falling on deaf ears. Of course, sometimes an author manages to do both. With THE TOME OF SYYX, Stavros Saristavros has written a fan-pleasing Dungeons & Dragons-infused epic for a devoted audience of which he happens to be a member.
The novel is set in the remote town of Sanctuary, a haven for outcasts and misfits under the leadership of the mysterious Lord Persus. Be it humans, elves, or even orcs, everyone who winds up in Sanctuary seems to harbor shrouded intentions and an equally murky past. As an uneasy alliance is formed in order to thwart a looming threat, an unassuming half-orc apothecarist (Zom) is tasked with assassinating the powerful Keurig. With his team assembled, Zom and his fellow would-be assassins head into the Wild Moor on a self-described suicide mission. Goblins and orcs remain an ever-present threat lurking around every corner, but the band of four soon discover that the greatest danger comes from above. What follows can only be described as an adventure of epic proportions, one where the action is ever-present, and the promise of dragons does not disappoint.
Within a few pages, it becomes clear that THE TOME OF SYYX (to borrow a little D&D nomenclature) is far from a bottom-tier fantasy adventure. Inspired by Saristavros’ “all-ghters playing D&D,” the author’s attention to detail is nothing short of impressive. Fantasy fans of all eras will immediately appreciate Saristavros’ immersive world-building, and gamers, in particular, will likely notice the use of RPG-specific jargon. The overall character development may be a bit lacking, but Saristavros offers just enough background to cement everyone’s motivations. And the handful of stylized sketches (depicting key sequences or even maps) spread throughout the text are another nice touch, providing some much-needed context at key intervals.
While there are elements of THE TOME OF SYYX that are heavily indebted to Dungeons & Dragons (such as the races/classes and the cinematic fighting sequences), a working knowledge of the game (and its rules) is hardly a requirement for enjoying Saristavros’ intricate narrative. That said, a complete lack of familiarity with RPG-style games may leave some readers struggling to catch up with the novel’s breakneck pace. Regardless, Saristavros’ ‘all-in’ approach is an admirable show of confidence. Make no mistake, THE TOME OF SYYX is about as far from a breezy beach read as one can get. But those in search of an epic adventure that bears all the hallmarks of a multi-day campaign will find that and more in Saristavros’ debut.
Stavros Saristavros’ Dungeons & Dragons-inspired debut, THE TOME OF SYYX, is an epic labor of love that is sure to resonate with like-minded readers.
~James Weiskittel for IndieReader