For the twenty-seventh book in the challenge, I read A Circle of Iron by Greg Benage, the first in his Eldernost series. I gave it three stars. It’s not a bad novella, in the vicinity of 180 pages or so, but it does feel like a D&D session that the players enjoyed tremendously and one of them decided to turn into a story.
It’s a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, there are Bad Guys in the forest and the ruins of an ancient city, and the Good Guys really need to get in there and scavenge out the last of the magic trinkets in the world. In this case, the Bad Guys are wights and the Good Guys (as per usual) are humans (with extra European flavor), and it’s all very straight-forward with a bit of Manifest Destiny thrown in there for authenticity. I mock, yes, but it’s fairly standard for the standard gaming setup.
The dialogue is snappy, but feels informal and anachronistic, if not outright modern. The twist in the middle is good; I wish it went further. The characters are not made of cardboard nor totally three-dimensional, and at times felt like an assembly of check-boxes (token female! token disabled mage! token big weird guy!). The hero had lots of swagger, if that’s your thing, with some tragic back-story to…I don’t know…excuse him being a jerk to people?
There’s only so much one can do with a novella. I’d like to see Benage do more writing; he has the talent. He just needs to tell a story that’s entirely his, give it time to ferment and grow some depth and breadth, and have someone help him polish it up. I think he could do some pretty interesting things given some time and some mentoring.