Advance copy provided by Reedsy Discovery.
The Lone and Level Sands by Emerson Grey is an intriguing take on the pitfalls and blinkers of power, drawing heavily from Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias poem.
The story follows Tarlos, the prince of Kesh, as he seeks immortality after his younger brother, Krastos, dies and a ground-breaking secret unravels about their family. The spiteful god, Ablis, takes advantage of Tarlos’s dismay to sow fear in him, which sends the prince onto a wild goose chase through the land of the dead and mind-bending realms beyond.
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Well-Written and Interesting Narrative
First off, I loved the opening line, “At the peak of a lone mountain lives a song,” which leads into a wonderfully written intro. The whole narrative is thought out and composed with care and grace. Even though it feels a bit allegorical and rushed at times, the plot is still suspenseful and emotional. Foreshadowing is also used to great effect throughout.
The characters make the book that much more immersive. Tarlos is a compelling anti-hero torn between duty, love, and fear of being forgotten. His relationship with Krastos is especially moving, not to mention the difficult situations they find themselves in. Various secondary characters – and creatures! – add their unique charm to Tarlos’s journey.
Another interesting feature of The Lone and Level Sands is how it plays with existential, cultural, mythological, and otherworldly concepts. It merges everything in a way that takes the “man seeks power” trope to the next level, giving it fun and clever depths. In other words, there’s wisdom in these pages as much as high-quality fantasy.
All-in-all, this is a very good book. Imaginative, exciting, and tender. Certain aspects could have been developed further, but the story more than delivers its poignant messages. While pondering the mystery of Kesh’s culture – Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, Scandinavia, or a mixture of all? – an epic quest laced with heart and character will sweep you away.
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