I find myself reading a lot of fantasy lately that feel like they were taken directly from a dungeon master’s manifest for a Dungeons&Dragons game between friends. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just not really sure how I ended up reading so many books with that same feel over the course of a relatively short time. But I digress. “Road of the Lost”, you guessed it, is a fantasy sword and sorcery book that follows three characters as they battle against dark elves and their Ogre warriors in an attempt to recover the fabled crystals that will save the forest. You’ve got Templars and Sylvan Elves, and Dark Elves, the Seelie Court, and a bunch of gods all invested in this trio and moving them about like chess pieces from one battle to the next all while the author builds a world for a long standing series. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the primary focus of this first book: build the world and they will come.
The author takes on an audacious task: create a rich fantasy realm with intricate politics and a long history of war where gods once walked the world, while setting up the different heroes who fought and shaped the land the reader now finds themselves in. It’s obvious early on that Russell has spent a great deal of time building out his world and the forest of Miradep, and crafting its rich history and populating it with classic fantasy creatures. But I think that’s where the story also loses its way. Instead of following a strong story line, we spend a great deal of what is a relatively quick read learning about the history of this world—which will probably make the sequels more enjoyable, but still. We are introduced to a plethora of characters whose only job is to relay backstory to the reader, which takes page time away from the three main characters we are supposed to care most about. The POV jumps paragraph to paragraph between Gratas, Jerah, and Reslo to the point where the bro-like Templars felt indistinguishable at times for me, and made Reslo’s annoyance at these humans feel all the more jarring. It made connecting to them hard because the organization of when those POV shifts came never allowed me to feel like I got to know them as individuals, only how they were as a whole—a kind of odd couple trio as they go about their quest. The focus of this book is so much on the immense world, that the plot feels lackluster by comparison: find crystals to keep the forest from dying—which also saves the world?—and maybe find a lost Templar and his sword along the way.
I will say one of the best things about this novel is the fight scenes. Each time the Templars find themselves in a bind, Russell delivers a crisp, clear, and exciting battle. I had no problem visualizing what these characters were doing, and the blows they were enduring in return. Having their magic tied to the Templars god’s blessing them in certain instances was a nice twist, as was Reslo’s flaming sword and his skill with a bow—he’s an elf, so of course he’s awesome with a bow. I also enjoyed the dialogue between the Seelie Court inhabitants as they felt like the cute fairy-like creatures I envisioned them to be.
Russell has built an immense world with a great deal of potential, but the story of this particular book in his series, and my difficulty connecting to the three main characters, really held me back from enjoying this book as much as I wanted to, which is too bad because I love all things fantasy and elvish! I’d still say to give this book a try if you are a fan of traditional Dungeons&Dragons like stories, or a firm lover of sword and sorcery fantasy reads, as it is quick and the fight scenes were a joy to get lost in. But characters and a strong story line are key for me and this book just didn’t scratch that itch, making this a 2.5 star for me. But like I said, this series has great potential and because so much world building was taken care of in this first book, I’m confident the subsequent books in the series can, and will, focus more on those plotlines and building out the main characters because the rest of the ground work has already been established. I just wish I could have gotten immersed in this particular story more… but thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review!
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