Ashes of the Fallen (A Review)

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Review by Curtis Cole

 
Returning to the universe of The Dragon’s Wrath, I was unsure of what to expect. Although the first volume was enjoyable enough, it suffered from some less than bearable moments of sexual introspection and existential Angst, not to mention a lagging pace on par with the worst LAN sessions imaginable. But still, the premise of author Brent Roth’s first volume—A virtual Dream—that of a virtual reality massively multiplayer online game set a fantasy world roughly modeled off of a fascination with Viking history, was compelling. I was interested in how the story developed and to what ends protagonist Brent would go to build his Northern kingdom. So I jumped back into Roth’s world and prepared myself for both the best, as well as the worst.

 
After finishing the second volume of The Dragon’s Wrath, I am pleased to report that, for the most part, the issues associated with the first volume have been fixed. No more is the reader subjected to tedious reports on the protagonist’s girl troubles; real world sections have largely been forgotten in favor of an acute focus on the in-game activities of the protagonist. This approach both speeds up the remaining world building that sets up the plot, as well as removes the iffy moments of the protagonist’s real life identity, thus, the meat of the volume—the in-game plot—is accelerated and the reader becomes interested in something which resembles an actual plot; this is a step up from the first installment where the narrative moved seemingly at random from one event to the next. Though the beginning reads in much the same fashion as the first volume, this is largely done to finish the narrative scaffolding and to form the basis for the conflict which will drive the remainder of the text.

 
The volume picks up immediately after volume one. And when I say ‘immediately,’ I mean immediately, for there is no summery of the prior events or neat narrative shuffling hinting at self-contained plot matter: in order to understand this second volume one must read the first volume, otherwise, the content will make no sense whatsoever. No in-text re-cap is provided; just pure plot. To me, this works. For as large an undertaking as Roth appears to be engaged in, and as plodding as the first volume needed to be, I would have been fairly ‘ticked,’ so to speak, had he spent additional time going over details he already covered previously. Though some may find this off-putting, or even a cheap gimmick aimed to force people and buy his previous volume, my opinion of it is very high-minded and would advise the author to continue with the tactic. It saves time and urges the reader forward.


Because of the nature of how the narrative is told, I cannot say much about the plot other than it picks up right after the protagonist arrives at the event town and is acclimating himself to dungeon crawling. Meeting some new characters whom forge a mutually benefiting relationship with him, protagonist Brent (Sigurd) spends much of his time fortifying his avatar in order to defeat the level-5 dungeon boss, while simultaneous looking for opportunities to enrich his Northern stronghold and give himself a fighting change in the carnage to come. During this period he meets some rude players, upon which, a sort of blood-feud erupts. With this event causing a chain reaction, the reader is treated to some personal development as Sigurd struggles with his inner-blood lust. A bit latter there is some exposition on the protagonist’s romantic relationship with the Non-playable characters and thus provides a decent, not whiny, for the most part, counterbalance to the violence and which, incidentally, melds well with the combat once a twist is revealed. Beyond this point I will remain silent, as details will be spoiled. Suffice it to say, the second half of the novel, but especially the final quarter, picks up with intensity and is difficult to put down until the conclusion has been reached.

 
In terms of new problems, I only noticed the author’s obsession with commas. Many unnecessary commas exist where they otherwise have no place. Additionally, Roth seems to enjoy using single-lined sentences as a standalone paragraph. While this is purely a creative decision, and it subsequently not technically grammatically incorrect in a demanding sense, it stands out; often, the reader will see two and even three standalone paragraphs constituted from but a single sentence. My view of this is that he could have constructed a single brief paragraph from these one liners; although I can appreciate the dramatic flair added by emphasizing specific moments in the plot, this is done too many times in the text and so it loses its venom. Both of these issues, however, are directly related to the author spending less time on editing, as he readily admits. My two cents: reverse course, spend some more time editing. While both issues are far from problematic, they do not distract one too much, they are nonetheless noticeable and sometimes do present an awkward situation when attempting to understand a specific scenario happening in the plot.

 
In the end, volume two of The Dragon’s Wrath was a splendid experience. Many issues from the first volume had been fixed, the narrative picked up, and the world building paid off. The final parts of the book were irresistible and present a dynamic conflict with room to spread, especially with so much of the universe still in the foreground and the in-text game still in the early stages, I, for one, am eager to delve into volume three and judge how Roth fares in fanning the literary flames.

 
Click here to read my review of volume one of The Dragon’s Wrath series.

 
The Dragon’s Wrath: Ashes of the Fallen
Brent Roth
351 pages. Published by Brent Roth. $3.99 (Kindle)(1) . 2015.

 

(1) Page estimates taken from the Kindle version of the book and were provided by Amazon.com. Prices likewise were taken from Amazon.com and were accurate at the time of writing.

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