In his fantasy novel Beginning of Arrogance, Bryan Cole offers a standard mix of familiar elements—from fantastical creatures to epic quests to mystical settings—yet weaves them all together in dynamic ways.
Krell is a young paladin who is embued with special powers by ReckNor, the god of sea and sky. He joins a band of adventurers, including orcs, halflings and monks, who are commissioned to investigate the disappearance of a group of dwarves. An investigation into a haunted tower follows, which reveals a much grander central conflict, one that involves aquatic monsters, a crazed god and a conspiracy that drives the larger conflict of the novel. All of this unrolls as Krell comes to terms with his own powers and follows the voice of his own mad-god companion in his head.
This is a straightforward adventure tale brimming with battles, magic and mysticism. The first stretches of the book involve missions that would fit into any Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Indeed, the initial series of Krell’s adventure runs with the pace of a tabletop role-playing game.
What saves this novel from being a routine exercise in fantasy tropes is the author’s sense of characterization and nuance. Krell is skillfully painted as a young, inexperienced warrior, a hero grappling with the dire advice of his adopted parent and mentor Olgar, who warned, “Paladins often die young, and for stupid reasons.”
That tone is behind Krell’s heroic deeds, and along with the colorful characters who serve as Krell’s battle companions, the protagonist’s depth and realism helps make this book shine, as does Cole’s sense of pacing and description.
Although much of the novel cleaves to straightforward quests, monsters and action sequences, the author has delivered an entertaining story. Deeper world-building and a more complex take on the fantasy genre would be welcome in future installments.
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