Orison, a review

I was fortunate enough to read an earlier draft of Orison, by Daniel Swensen, about a year ago, and I enjoyed the read quite a bit. It was a well-crafted tale that would fit well into the fantasy genre and hold its place on shelves at stores and libraries. I knew that he was working on revisions, and I looked forward to the final draft with excitement. To say the final product impressed me would be a significant understatement. Daniel managed to take an engaging tale and make is something more, an inventive, original take on a story genre that is stuffed to the gills, and one that leaves you wanting more.
Orison is the story of Story, a young woman of indeterminate origin working as a burglar and pickpocket in Calushain, a city on the edge on an empire that has, as all empires do, a desire to grow. The world in which Story lives is ruled (or perhaps not, depending on your theology) by a collection of gods who empower semblances to do their bidding in the world of the living. Magic has come to the world as result of the dragons’ powers, but the consequences of agreeing to the gifts of magic are complex.
Story is not alone in her life of crime – she is joined in the service of the crime lord Galon by her brother Crux, who can seemingly open anything. Her closest friend in town is Wrynn Sendir, who spends most of his time drinking or sleeping it off in a crate outside the building Story lives in. For a man without anything obviously to his name, Wrynn has a complex past and a wealth of knowledge about magic. While walking through town one day, Wrynn runs into a group of mercenaries who are only prevented from doing him harm by the appearance of Mar Dunnac, a master swordsman who is, like Wrynn, on the run from a dangerous past and headed for an even more dangerous future.
The way the author develops the Story, Crux, Wrynn, and Dunnac creates characters of depth and complexity, strength and weakness. How their stories become intertwined is a pleasure I want to leave for the reader.
 Orison is not a long book, but it contains the depth to show hints of a much larger world, and the ending of the book gives us hints about how we might get to explore the rest of the world along with … well, someone. There are a lot of fantasy stories out there about muscle-bound and powerful young men who rise to great heights, and while some of them define the genre, it’s hard to find original ground there. What the author has done with Orison is more than just make the main character a woman, he has provided a fresh take on magic, fate, politics, and storytelling. Read Orison. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll want to keep reading. A heck of a first novel.
Orison is published by Nine Muse Press, and is available here, starting at Noon (Eastern Time, US) today.

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