There are many fantasy stories that try too hard, or don’t try at all, in their storytelling. The best, as I wrote a few months ago, are reflective of the longings — both realized and not — inside us. Jaimie Engle‘s new Dreadlands is one of these stories.
Set in a lost Viking land in North America (you would know why this caught my attention quickly if you read this), we find Arud Bergson very quickly finding his world thrown into disarray. Shape-shifting ferine have begun attacking where none should be. His father is long overdue from a journey East and now his mother wants to send him off to a distant uncle with little explanation.
Leave. Take your sister Lykke. You must go now.
With this begins a journey where these young people learn who they are and about the world that they were shielded from. A classic coming of age tale, but also an engaging one (any book I read in one sitting certainly deserves some notice). Reminiscent of the detail, character development and the pacing of the Shannara stories — with a Middle Earth style epic battle to top it all off. A comparison of the story has been made to Twilight and this is unfair.
Dreadlands is better.
Admittedly, I haven’t read the Twilight books and my analysis is based on the films that focus on stretching out longing looks and angst between the leads at the expense of everything else. Jaimie’s approach to the history of the conflict between hybrids and humans, the creatures themselves, and planting the seeds of a romance is more mature and balanced. This is a fusion of epic and dark fantasy: Shannarra meets Underworld.
This genre is crowded, but put Dreadlands at the top of your list. The only disappointment you will encounter is finding out that part two has yet to be released.