Skip to main content

New Review

4.0 out of 5 stars New Fantasy from James VargoApril 12, 2011
This review is from: Passage of the Acolyte: part one (Volume 1) (Paperback)
Vargo's initial volume of his fantasy tale "Passage of the Acolyte" goes a long way on delivering on the new author's rather bold promise to spin a tale reminiscent of Tolkien's Middle Earth. We are immediately introduced to the main character Greynol, a retired cleric who receives a disturbing message from lands far to the south. The message, in the form of a scroll, mysteriously unsealed and literally cursed by blood, calls the elderly Acolyte out of his comfortable situation and into a redemptive quest.
Rather quickly, the reader is then acquainted with a group of young men, friends and kin from the lands of the north of Vargo's millieu, all coming of age and looking for adventure and deeds to prove themselves. A chance encounter eventually leads them to Greynol who is looking for an escort to the south where he can confront his past.
Greynol's companions, seven in number, are from various clans and races (human ), each of which has a particular history which Vargo skillfully reveals in conversations and events during their travels together. It is clear that the author has spent a lot of time and effort into building his world and creating a coherent mythos in which his story is a part. Several very nicely drawn maps are testaments to Vargo's world building endeavors, unfortunately it appears that some have been necessarily cropped to fit the format of the publisher. Vargo's vivid descriptions of the landscape through which the party journeys are evidently the result of his own wilderness wanderings and meditations.
Their journey is not without perils - bandits and ancient temples test the party's mettle. A shadowy assassin keeps the adventurers on their toes and is responsible for a particularly desperate encounter. There is also a mysterious and fiery being dogging them with sinister intentions. Through all of the dangers, Greynol calls on and uses the powers of Fawarra, which "... act through those who empty themselves the most ..."
Near the end of the volume is a wonderfully described fight scene which is resolved by a maneuver which will always stick in my mind and finishes off Part One of Vargo's tale with the party playing the role of local heros.
Vargo does indeed manage to evoke feelings of Tolkien, I think in a large measure due to his characterizations (rather than relying on typical fantasy races such as elves and dwarves, he embeds his human characters with traits and histories which accomplish the same results) and interwoven backstory (though at time a bit too heavy) to his world.
I've always had a particular fondness for the passage in "The Hobbit" where Gandalf calls to Bilbo to ".. just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!" Vargo does not neglect the fact that adventurers need to eat, and though he sometimes describes their meals in a perfunctory manner, more often than not his depictions sent me scurrying to the kitchen to find something which would firmly cement the passage in my memory.
His sparing and judicious use of "magic" makes its appearance all the more satisfying and the Fawarra religion which permeates his world really is a treat. Not since Katherine Kurtz's "Camber of Culdi" have I enjoyed a fantasy novel which had a world spanning religion organically and effectively embedded in the story in this fashion. One small gripe - I can't help but associate the term "acolyte" with a beginner or minor liturgical functionary, which Greynol clearly is not.
I think that Mr. Vargo does indeed deliver (so far!) what he promised. Onto Part Two ...


Popular posts from this blog

hopeful quote

Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: “Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”. And later he adds: “In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption”

A long awaited...snippet?

As the Lords of Nordhiem takes shape, currently at 75k words, I realized it's time for a snippet. An older chapter, here we revisit Andro and his infatuation with a certain Randa (not to worry, folks -- it's still a fantasy). Enjoy:

Frost hung thick and the night deepened. Those about the fire had no complaints, tossing logs into the heady blaze. Ashes soared into the sky swiftly snuffed out by an autumn wind. Folks came and went – the heartiest not ready to call it a night. But Randa had enough and stood to depart some time before midnight. Andro was quick to offer escort. She shrugged her shoulders in her usual impassive manner. He took it as ‘yes’. “Randa, where are you headed?” hollered Rogan. He could not resist but laugh at the poor display of Andro chasing at her heel. “The road is the other direction!” “I know my way, Rogan. I wasn’t drinking tonight…not as much as you, at least!” “Then where are you going?” wondered Andro at her back as they left the others behind. “O…

a time for everything...

A time for everything sometimes means, a time for nothing. Well, not actually nothing, but as far as my imaginary world, not much at all. Hard to say what keeps me away --  actually, I know very well, but won't bother you with the details. Life has a way of interfering with fable. Pesky life.

In no way do I compare with Tolkien, who was a professor and determined and pretty much a genius. But I do find glimpses of similarities, aside from creating an imaginary world. J.R.R. was by no means a prolific writer: how long did it take for him to write the Hobbit, LOTR, and Silmarillion (which he never finished)? A lifetime. I'm trying not to take a lifetime, but in reality, I haven't written much in months, aside from a poem and some corrections. Not making excuses, but that's the life of a storyteller. A writer no, but creator of things previously yet seen, I'll claim that one. Keep me in mind as I attempt to kickstart Book four, which is well on it's way --  so th…