Fusing high fantasy with teenage hijinks, C.V. Vobh’s Tolkien-inspired debut slips contemporary allusions into a classic quest.
For generations, orks raiding the farming village of Beldria were felled by its legendary swordsmen, but that was centuries ago, before crimson-walled Boundaries cut the land into Fragments, physically isolating their inhabitants.
Cor Volucre, son of Beldria’s whisky distiller, works alongside his father but dreams of swordplay. Although trained by the town’s Master of War, his skills can’t defend against deformed livestock births and blighted crops that sicken villagers and killed his mother when he was six. Before her death, she claimed Cor was “important” and someday he’d learn why.
Now 23, Cor discovers a gap in the Boundary and a deep cave in the next Fragment. There, an Elemental, a horned, winged warden, explains that his kind are dying; Cor must find and unite other Elementals to save humankind from eternal blight and ruin.
In dying, the Elemental becomes a precious Fossil stone that guides Cor and boosts his swordsmanship. Soon, he meets others who help in his quest, and the group eventually faces Lothar, a populist tyrant backed by orks, who hinders their mission.
Throughout, amusing political and pop-culture Easter eggs abound: Lothar displays many aspects of Donald Trump and Elon Musk; his spokesperson recalls Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; newspaper magnate Sulzdorf mirrors the Sulzburgs who own The New York Times.
Descriptions lean heavily into alliteration — “beyond the woeful waters was a crevice upon the crags”— but Vobh’s literary sleight-of-hand pulls it off, and readers will appreciate the author’s rhythmic and artful prose. The story offers wondrous landscapes of “shining spires,” palace gates “that married glass with stone of luminous silver,” “gleaming summits,” and much more, and character descriptions skillfully balance exterior features with interior lives: “Cor was approaching life’s close-cropping phase, when hair and hopes are trimmed.”
In all, The Yawning Gap is simply splendid. Readers will savor every word.
Highly recommended for fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Robert Jordan.