Author: Daryl Chestney
Author: Daryl Chestney
Although fantasy novels are generally not my cup of tea, I have to admit that Daryl Chestney's debut novel, Dominion did keep me firmly hooked. And this was not attributable to the story line that at times I found a trifle wearisome, but rather to the author's seductive writing style that sparkles throughout with his rich and vivid vocabulary, as well as the mystical allure of the threads of magic that runs through the narrative. In addition, Chestney has a knack with his attentive visual detail of seeing his various characters rather than inventing them, and thus readers are vividly presented with an array of weird subhumans populating a complex world where magic can be believable. All of this makes for some very intriguing reading, particularly that the world Chestney creates can even be our world but slightly altered in a way that readers are able to suspend disbelief.
As the opening sequence of the story unfolds, we find ourselves in the ancient and revered city of Grimpkin, where the finest inn is located, the Goblin Knight Inn that is one of the ancient Towers of Grimpkin. It is here where we meet a young dark-skinned female, an Acaanan, whose people are very much fascinated with the occult but are also despised by many. In fact, they have been depicted as “the mites of nature's zoo”-a stigma that shackles them.
The youth goes by the name of Lakif and she has traveled from her hometown of Mordakai to Grimpkin where she believes she will find a relic known as the Rare Earth Stone. Furthermore, she believes “that scattered around the city are these strange gem-like stones that are not precious stones of the earth that are greedily hoarded by men for their value. These are a special class of Stone, the likes of which most men would never encounter, no matter their profession or wealth.” Lakif encounters a gypsy and soothsayer, Lucretia, who possesses specific knowledge about the stones and who informs her that these stones actually exist and may even predate Grimpkin. Moreover, she warns her that it is always dangerous to discover and more perilous to acquire one of these stones. They hold the key to tremendous power that awards dominion over men, however, many believe that it is an agent of doom and anyone seeking them will be put to death, as it is an act of treason against the Empire. She further tells Lakif that the place where they will be found reeks with an air of claustrophobia-”a dark place that has forsaken the temporal pleasures of the flesh. In addition, it is frequented by dogs.”
Lakif is nonetheless steadfast in pursuing her dream and to protect her in her quest for these stones, she enlists the help of a half-man, Torkoth, a transient, who belongs to the Istani race that is the enemy of Acaanans. Torkoth is penniless and probably needed Lakif more than she needed him, and in fact there is even some doubt if he could effectively defend her if she does encounter some unsavory characters that would want to harm her or even kill her. However, the deal is sealed and the two join together and with Lucretia's directives in hand begin their journey where they will stumble upon an unexpected secret code that cloaks the nightmarish world of the macabre.
When all things have been considered, what we have here is an original fantasy novel that brilliantly conjures characters so vividly that we can almost reach out and touch them. Chestney displays dazzling skill with dialogue and I have to admit that sometimes his word skill can even be more outlandish than his characterizations, but this is what makes this novel appealing. What's more, it is a work, that after some reflection, can be appreciated on many different levels reminding us that fantasy characters may even act in the same manner as real humans that are bent on attaining power and domination over others.
However, this is not to say that the novel is devoid of some shortcomings. My primary gripe is that there are far too many descriptive scenes that sometimes interfere with the pacing causing the story to be uneven. Also, these scenes contribute very little to creating dramatic tension, leaving the reader at times frustrated. Nonetheless, this is one author to be on the lookout for in the future.