Author: George A. Holland
Publication date: August 27, 2020
One Sentence Summary: When two elves are flung far from their home, they must overcome their antagonism to get home, if only they could help a young man and a dwarf with their mission for their god.
If I’m honest, there were two things in Mr. Holland’s review request that had me saying yes before I even finished reading it. It promised an epic fantasy and a dragon. Epic fantasy will always be my weak point, and adding a dragon to it just double seals the deal. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but how wrong could an epic fantasy with a dragon go? Fortunately, straight into the heart of what got me into fantasy in the first place, so I must say a big thank you to George A. Holland for reminding me of why I fell in love with fantasy.
Quests and Adventures Aplenty
Diomed, an elf Adjudicator tasked with bringing down swift justice, is only doing his job when he pursues a thief who stole a magic ring. The elf thief Gwy only wants to escape, so uses the ring, only to end up having both of them flung into a forest far from their desert home.
Timotheus, a young warrior, and Tirrel, a learned dwarf, are on a mission to intercept another dwarf to keep him safe from capture, and keep a religious tome out of enemy hands. Their enemy? The black dragon god who rules the land, though the other gods are starting to stir.
When these four are suddenly drawn together, with secrets and suspicions festering among them, they end up drawn together into a series of quests. Promising to help them home, Timotheus and Tirrel beg the better elf warriors to help them on their mission, unknowingly drawing them ever closer as a band of heroes.
Miram Dur presents a traditional and standard fantasy. Full of adventure and quests, magical creatures from elves to dragons, and gods and religions, it hits every note. There’s never a shortage of adventure and, through it all, an unlikely band of heroes come to understand each other and develop a tenuous alliance. It was quite delightful to read about the winding back and forth journey of various creatures, human included, that follow different gods and religions while also becoming an efficient team that somehow works well together.
As enjoyable as Miram Dur is, it is quite reminiscent of fantasy from 20-30 years ago. I enjoyed the familiarity, a sort of returning to roots, but was also disappointed it didn’t step too far outside the lines and offer something new or progressive. Still, it’s a fun story with enough quests and adventures to make a reader curious about what comes next, especially with the gods starting to get involved, and whether the thin ties binding this band of heroes together will hold.
A Rather Motley Group
Outside of the gods each group chooses to follow, there are five main characters, our heroes. As they come from four different races, they’re unique and distinct from each other in different ways. They each had their own mannerisms, ways of speech, and thoughts that easily set them apart in my mind.
With two elves, it might be easy to mix them up, but not Diomed and Gwy. Set on opposite sides of elven law, Diomed is almost a complete stickler to the word of law while Gwy bends and twists seemingly everything possible to get what he wants. Diomed is a formidable warrior, but young and inexperienced. He holds elven law above all else, coming off as noble and righteous as it’s the only thing he stands on. It actually pained my heart a little as he realized he couldn’t always rely on it to not lead him astray. Gwy, meanwhile, is a ton of fun. Funny and smart, he keeps things interesting. While I was certain he would always end up doing what was right, there were also moments of not being sure of him. He provides a good dose of comic relief, but can also be surprisingly serious and quite useful.
When Timotheus and Tirrel were first introduced, I worried I’d mix them up. While a human and dwarf, respectively, they’re friends working together and are of similar dispositions. They’re new to their trade and have known each other for quite a long time. So I was quite relieved that, though they’re close, they’re also quite different. Timotheus is young and innocent, making me think he might be in his mid to late teens. He’s untried and steadfast in his beliefs, but is ready and willing to learn. Tirrel felt like the voice of reason for the group. A learned dwarf, he provides a calming presence and thoughtfulness the group would otherwise lack. He’s slow and careful in his thought, rational and thorough, though also still young and inexperienced.
Finally, there’s Alyssa, the lone female. Part of a community that doesn’t place a ton of value on females, much less female mages, she sees this group as her chance for adventure and to find her path. She’s young, but is earnest in her journey to finding her own place in the world. She’s also quite good with magic, though also a bit explosive when it comes to magic. My favorite part of her is how headstrong she is and how set she is on figuring out her own path even while her family and people are trying to bring her back.
Traditional with a Twist of New
Just as Miram Dur presents traditional characters and story, so too is much of the world traditional European fantasy. There are the cities, the small villages, the compounds keeping others out, the esoteric institutions, and a great deal of woods and open spaces. I did like the addition of elves living in the desert instead of the forest, though. That was unique and quite an interesting twist to the world, as well as the fabricated creatures our heroes come across.
The one thing that disappointed me was the magic system. It wasn’t well developed, or at least not yet as this is the first in the series, but it seemed to have flexible rules. Initially, it seemed that only certain individuals or races were able to have access to it, but, in a twist, one character discovers a slight ability. It was hard to tell if it was an innate ability given to all that just requires some training or if it was more selective. Though I did like that the author made note of how it’s used, making the actual use of magic both traditional and easy to figure out.
In general, I felt Miram Dur built up on what’s been written before, using it as groundwork that could be tweaked and built on. It made it easy to sort out this world and figure it out without having to spend a considerable amount of time with complicated world building. At the same time, I wish there had been more complicated world building. I adored the addition of the gods seemingly going to war with each other just as one was brewing on the land, though. It nicely overlaid the story, adding a layer I’m quite curious about.
An Enjoyable Fantasy Read
Miram Dur is the kind of fantasy novel that takes me back to my early days as a fantasy reader. It’s traditional and chock full of quests and adventures, gods and magic, and typical and new fantasy creatures. Unfortunately, the writing left a little to be desired as it focused more on tell than show and was overall rough and simplistic, but I still think this could be an impressive traditional fantasy with more work. I loved all the layers and the band of heroes, and even the villains didn’t seem completely villainous as they do in traditional good vs. evil stories, so this was an enjoyable, quick fantasy read.
Great if you enjoy: traditional fantasy, European-inspired fantasy, gods and religion, quests, adventure novels
Not great if you’re looking for: modern fantasy, complex stories, court intrigue
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 should be sufficient
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Thank you to the author, George A. Holland, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.