It’s easy to see N.D. Taylor’s narrative roots in the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien. In his charming debut fantasy novel, Origins: Seed of Deceit, Taylor channels the spirit and complexity of one of Tolkien’s most complex and ambitious works, the elf-centered history The Silmarillian.
Those parallels come in the sheer complexity of Taylor’s world, an environment called the “middle kingdom.” His main character, a young orphan named Godric with a mysterious lineage, operates in a fantasy world with a rich and convoluted backstory. Taylor builds up that mythology in the two chapters preceding Godric’s first appearance; the story of dark spirits, a race of Supreme Beings and a battle that sees gods fighting in the same ranks as mortal beings, serves as the narrative canvas.
The main plot takes place 40 years after that battle. Godric, a boy with little in the way of experience or might, finds himself in the middle of a battle with epic consequences. The future of the middle kingdom hangs in the balance as he and his allies join the fight to defeat a supernatural villain.
Taylor’s world is populated with humans, elves, orcs, cyclops and other figures that will be familiar to any dedicated fantasy fan. Indeed, fans of the genre will find many parallels to seminal works in this debut. Godric’s first meeting with the mysterious stranger that kicks off the quest, for example, recalls a scene straight out of The Lord of the Rings saga. Such issues are forgivable, however, as Taylor carves out his own unique narrative style and sketches out his own engaging universe.
The sheer amount of world building may dissuade casual fantasy readers, but in less than 300 pages, Taylor offers a knack for detail and storytelling that provides genuinely compelling moments. Judging from the final scenes, Taylor plans to write more about the middle kingdom. Fans of the fantasy genre (or Tolkien) will be eager for the next installment.
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