Farmers & Mercenaries by Maxwell Alexander Drake

Rating 8.8/10
A skilfully woven, incident packed, superior fantasy drama.

The first book in the ‘Genesis of Oblivion Saga’ introduces the reader to a sleepy farming stead where a young man, Alant Cor, is found to be one of the few humans who can manipulate the magical force known as the Essence. Not only can he manipulate it he has more power over the Essence than any human in known history. His younger brother Arderi wonders whether he possesses the same ability.
Enter Clytus Rillion, the commander of a band of mercenaries who embarks on a personal quest to cure his dying son, Sindian. Clytus is prepared to pay the ultimate price if necessary if it means saving his son.
Another central figure in the saga is the Kith beast known as Klain. Born a slave and used to entertain the masses in a gladiatorial style sport the Games he is also on a personal journey where he will learn his true worth as he dreams of his freedom.
All seem to be fated to follow a certain path yet other beings on the world of Talic’ Nauth, the Elmorr’ Antiens may be manipulating and shaping events to their own ends. These ancient beings are well aware of the coming storm and the power struggle that is sure to follow.
Drake’s opening novel in the series is ambitious in its scope with a world that boasts over ninety six thousand years of history and culture. We are introduced to many creatures, races and ideologies. The many characters that grace the pages of ‘Farmers & Mercenaries’ are vivid and well drawn. This is a harsh, sometimes savage and unforgiving world. Along with the thrills you would expect from a fantasy novel there is also plenty of gritty realism and gore.
The city port of Mocley is a colourful, vibrant and of course dangerous place and thanks to Drake’s skill as a writer is easy to picture. The inhabitants of Talic’ Nauth have elaborate names, which take getting used to at first. The languages, accents, phrases and expressions that the characters use all help to enrich the novel. I soon found myself lost in this other world.
I read on fascinated by the Shapers, those with the ability to manipulate the Essence as well as Klain’s earthier struggle for emancipation. This is a classic tale about personal journeys where innocence is lost and characters are shaped and changed by events.
The unusual looking, enigmatic and even sinister Elmorr’ Antiens add to the intrigue and mystery as you try to unlock their motives and attempt to piece together their larger plans. There are a host of other interesting supporting characters and thankfully Drake avoids the trap of getting mired in exposition instead giving us a fast moving adventure where we have to work things out for ourselves.
Klain is a particularly well-written creation that manages to elicit sympathy and awe, no mean feat for a fictional character. Clytus Rillion’s quest tugs at the heartstrings and you will him to succeed. As I read on I became totally wrapped up in the individual storylines and fates of the main protagonists.
Put simply this is a skilfully woven, incident packed, superior fantasy drama. Themes such as courage, resolve and honour all reverberate in this novel where the age-old argument of fate versus making your own luck is adeptly tackled.
The novel builds the reader’s interest and curiosity with each page rewarding you with a multi-layered, rich, vivid world of different lands, peoples and cultures against the main backdrop of the mystery of the Essence.
It has universal appeal as everyone can relate to growing up and facing your responsibilities and making your own choices. Drake keeps the twists, surprises and revelations coming thick and fast keeping you on your toes. After I raced to the finish of this captivating and thrilling first entry I was knocked back when I learnt that it is Drake’s first novel! To produce something this fresh and this exciting at the first attempt in a notoriously difficult market is praiseworthy indeed. I for one cannot wait to read the next in this series. Kudos!


Farmers & Mercenaries
By Maxwell Alexander Drake
Published 2009 by Imagined Interprises Incorporated
ISBN: 978-0-9819548-4-

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