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4.0 out of 5 star 

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars
 Hopefully not the last word of Vargo's world ...!, April 25, 2011

Part Two of "Passage of the Acolyte" opens with Greynol and his party continuing their travels southward toward their destination. The fiery creature, which made several troublesome appearances in the first volume, attacks them once again, forcing them from their intended road. A legendary path becomes an escape route and an introduction to a most interesting figure.

Their newly found, but very ancient friend is a strong, wise, and earthy character who not only helps them on their way, but through his conversations further develops Vargo's world, fleshing out more of the back-story. Additionally, the conversations and settings allow the reader to finally get to know Drago and Zerrin who come into their own in this volume.

The party comes to the end of their fascinating detour and joins with a party of warriors from Nordheim led by Baric the Tall, no stranger to the reader, who had also set out for adventure in the south in the previous volume. The two parties join, affording each party certain travelling advantages, but most importantly affording Vargo ample opportunities to introduce several new characters to advance the story line, as well as to develop his main characters via some rather opinionated interactions between the two parties.

The city of Rintar, royal capital of the war torn kingdom of Fanael, is the setting for a series of plot elements, including an important and eventful Fawarran liturgical ceremony, an introduction to a new and unexpected adventurer, further exploration of Greynol's faith, and some surprising events which shake the party up with associated plot twists.

The action eventually moves to the neighboring and secretive country of Asenrael. Asenrael is rather quickly introduced to the reader, and it seems that there is quite a rush of information packed into the several chapters dealing with the events taking place in and around this intriguing realm. Perhaps the sense of being overwhelmed with the fast paced descriptions of events in Asenrael is intended to mirror the wonder and confusion felt by the party of northern outsiders who find themselves plunged into the quickly moving world of a hidden kingdom swiftly being overtaken by war. In any event, I wonder if Vargo might have tempered the pace here a bit.

In the very heart of Asenrael and at its darkest hour, Greynol, Fauglir, the undead Ragulon, King Halphun of Asenrael, Halphun's opposition, and the Alliance and their friends all play out their fates and set new ones into motion. Vargo nicely brings to a close Greynol's quest while leaving open a number of plot hooks for (hopefully!) future stories.

Vargo's epic has it all. Ancient powers slumbering in abandoned temples, mythical mines, legendary creatures (both friend and foe), swordplay, and magical duels are enough to satisfy any "fantasy" addict, but what sets it apart in my mind is the pervasive human element. Vargo, while utilizing the fantastic, bases his story around people - people with everyday lives, hopes, and dreams, people who enjoy good food and sleep when they can get it, who rise above their fears when necessary, and having risen above their fears to look dread evil face to face, still can find it difficult to muster the courage to speak openly to those that they love. Even his most "magical" race in his world are finite and human and can be related to by any reader. Above it all, his world is permeated by a hope that transcends his world's humanity, entering into it via people like Greynol and those whose hearts are good, and in the end testing and perfecting their humanity.

A few more typos to be found in this volume than in the first, but not enough to be distracting.

I certainly hope we have not heard the last from Mr. Vargo concerning his world!

4.0 out of 5 stars
 Quite good book by new fantasy author, March 15, 2011
Wulfstan "wulfstan" (San Jose, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Passage of the Acolyte: part one (Volume 1) (Paperback)
James Vargo has a very good start here to his planned epic fantasy two-volume series. This is the story of Greynol an "Acolyte" (a sort of holy man). Greynol has lived for decades in a quite life of contemplative retirement when he is pulled back into the real world by a dark secret from his past- one that may have dire consequences for the world.

The Acolyte thus must gather a small group of escorts for his quest across the continent, and ends up with a group of eager young men.

In many ways, I found the tale so far quite evocative of The Fellowship of the Ring. Don't get me wrong, there's no attempt to copy LotR ( no hobbits, etc), and it's not up to Tolkien's writing level (who is?), but still, there is a sense of the Fellowship here.

I quite enjoyed it. Not a lot of magic or combat, but just enough of both to add a sense of wonder and danger. The world is beautifully described, too. And, it has several nice maps, and we all know how much I like maps in a fantasy novel. Nice character growth and a slow building of what we know about Greynol, too.

There's a few missteps, of course, such as one would expect from a new author. Names are a bit confusing, as is all too common in fantasy books. To an extent, same with the different peoples. What would be a good addition is a glossary with a short character bio and info about the various people, nations, etc.

Still, those are quibbles. I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

I rcvd a copy of this book for review.

4.0 out of 5 stars
 New Fantasy from James Vargo, April 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 ...

of 5 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars
Evocative of LotR, March 29, 2011
Wulfstan "wulfstan" (San Jose, CA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Passage of the Acolyte: Part Two (Paperback)
Having read and enjoyed Passage of the Acolyte Part One, the author was kind enough to send me a copy of Part Two. It's every bit as good at Part One.

Again, it's quite evocative of LotR. No, it's not a copy-cat, there are no Hobbits or Orcs (although there is a race which is rather Elvin). Our party of adventurers, led by the mysterious Acolyte, Greynol Arowen, continues on their quest, and the (unfortunately too) short series reaches a rather surprising end.

I like the characterizations (altho perhaps the author has too many characters here), the way the world is described and the battle scenes.

There is a rather nice Map. I wish there were some appendixes, like JRRT had.

This is a very good start by a new fantasy author. Those that like Epic Fantasy should give it a try. February 15, 2011
It draws you in as you read. I want to know more! I think after reading a few of these previews you begin to identify those that "Got it and those that don’t-- You’ve got it". Good dialogue, good back and forth.

The vocabulary is sophisticated and the edgy atmosphere surprisingly appealing.

As far as I can tell is pretty damn good. Kept me hypnotized for a spell. You write exceptionally well. Good Luck to you!

 Five stars
Doralynn February 19, 2011

I like your writing style, very poetic and haunting, but some of your long sentences are confusing. Perhaps break up long passages into shorter sentences.  

I like the dialogue.  

sunlight began to enter the hall (it's best not to use passive contructions. Editors prefer active constructions, such as "sunlight entered the hall..."  

I like Greynol and Rhen. And I feel for Greynol and his news.  

Good buildup of suspense over the scroll, the effect it had on Caron, and what kind of burden it brings for Greynol.  

Wonderful opening. Pleasant writing style, though as I mentioned, I believe some sentences should be shortened... not eliminating anything, just using some different punctuation.  

A coward in wait? I had not thought of him like that, but it seems he's made some decisions that have led to evil consequences by not taking action.  

I like the gradual buildup of the coming evil... the lightning showing the dark figures of the watchers waiting outside...  
 nicely done.

 Five Stars
 Linda April 01, 2011

great story !

4.0 out of 5 stars The journey continues.December 7, 2011
Scott (Columbus, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Passage of the Acolyte, Part Two (Kindle Edition)
Passage of the Acolyte: Part Two by James Vargo continues the journey of Acolyte Greynol to confront his son. So I don't spoil the first book I won't really go into the plot of this one very much. There is a very cool new character introduced that helps to guide the group on the proper path and Leonin meets more of his people.

The book continues on the same path as Part One. It is very well written in the style of a truly epic fantasy world. James continues to use vivid descriptions to give a true feel for the environments that the group travels through. This is a great series for fans of books such as The Lord of the Rings. 


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