Aelryk’s kingdom is under attack by monsters conjured by a dark sorcerer. His only hope lies far to the west, where a powerful water elemental is rumored to dwell. Along the way, he joins forces with the Wild Elves, who were once his enemy. They alone can lead him through the dangers of the Wildlands. Together, they must journey to a mysterious land of eternal spring and return before the kingdom is overrun by evil.
In A Story of River, a traditional fantasy, elven and human lands are being attacked by an evil sorceror, and an unlikely band of human and elven allies seek the help of River, a powerful water elemental. I found the story enjoyable, and Ms. Axe's traditional fantasy world is charming. Ulda, were particularly interesting. He's deliciously nasty and ruthless, with a vivid personality and some really cool magic using gems and living souls. Other than these parts, though, I felt like the novel was just skimming the surface of the story. I would have liked to dig deeper into the minds, hearts, and personalities of the protagonists. There wasn't a lot other than name, position, and race (elf or human) to differentiate them, and the events of the story didn't seem to affect them very deeply.
“Far you must travel to a land of spring and bring back the River who dwells there.” The bent old man’s voice was raspy and strained but his resolve was strong. He had held the gift of prophecy for many long years and had served the kings of Na’zora his entire life. He had always been cryptic, but he was never wrong. If King Aelryk was to survive this new threat and save his people from a life of servitude, he would have to figure out how to bring a river from a distant land.
King Aelryk’s face was contemplative. He may as well have been asked to move a mountain. For months now, dark creatures had been leaving the Wildlands and attacking Na’zora. Villages near the border were being raided, and citizens were being taken. Aelryk feared a dark force had arisen and bound these creatures to an evil purpose. His armies would arrive either too late or in time to be slaughtered themselves. This was no simple foe he was facing. His own mages had confirmed there were incredibly strong enchantments at work here.
Aelryk stood, immediately followed by his mages. He was taller than all of them, dark-haired, and muscular. He was an expert swordsman and a brave war leader. During his father’s reign, he had secured peace with some of the clans who inhabit the Wildlands. The Wild Elves fought savagely, but in the end Aelryk’s forces were victorious. The vicious attacks stopped, and the Wild Elves were driven off to their forests. Orzi the prophet had come through in his father’s time of need, and if Aelryk could manage to complete this seemingly impossible task, he may be able to save his people.
“Does anyone know of a land of spring?” Aelryk asked. His dark eyes looked at his mages, who each lowered their head in turn. No one knew. “Repeat this prophecy to my historians. Tell them not to stop searching until they’ve figured out where it is I must go.” A young page dashed from the room to carry out the king’s command. “Orzi, is it imperative that I go myself? It seems so dangerous to leave my people in this time of need. I would much rather move closer to the border and deal with these creatures myself.”
Orzi had sunk into his chair, exhausted from the mental strain his gift of prophecy caused him. Slowly, he began to speak. “Yes, your majesty. Only you will be able to bring back this river. If you do not go yourself, your kingdom will fall to darkness.”
The matter was settled. Aelryk would leave his kingdom in the hands of his most trusted advisors and generals. With his whole heart he was determined to protect his people, even if it meant leaving them.
As he walked the stone floor of his palace his mind wandered to the memory of the mutilated bodies that had been brought back for him to see. Many of them were torn into several pieces. These creatures had attacked with such savagery that it was impossible to believe it could have been any beast known to man. These were dark creatures controlled by some evil force. The few who managed to survive were incredibly lucky. In their accounts, they had run but had not been pursued. They had witnessed many citizens being cut down with vicious claws while others were dragged away completely unharmed. For what purpose could these monsters take the living? Why were they murdering with such ferocity? Where had they come from and who were they serving?
The witnesses had described them as standing a head and shoulders taller than any man, dark blue-black skin, patches of wiry dark fur, huge fangs, and long scythe-like claws. Their eyes were golden and glowing, and their snouts were short and flat with wide nostrils. Small pointed ears sat atop their heads. In all his years, Aelryk had never heard of such creatures. His historians were at a loss to find any record of such a creature ever being described.
As he reached his council chambers, he could already hear the mixed voices of his twelve advisors coming from within. He stepped inside, and immediately his men quieted. They moved to stand behind their chairs and bowed their heads until Aelryk was seated at the head of the table and motioned for them to sit as well. “The Prophet Orzi has given me hope. He knows how I am to defeat these vicious creatures who have been attacking my people. Unfortunately, I know not exactly what is to be done, but with help from my historians I’m sure this mystery will be solved soon. Is there any news from the outlying villages?”
“No attacks have been reported for three days now.” General Morek's voice sounded relieved. “The remains of one creature have arrived and are awaiting inspection by the mages.”
Aelryk turned to his mages. “I will leave you to your work, then. You are dismissed.” The three mages stood, bowed, and left the room without a word. A grave task lay before them.
Lana Axe lives in Missouri near the edge of the woods. She is inspired by her love of nature to write about elves, magic, and adventure. Growing up in Mark Twain's backyard inspired her love of fiction from an early age. She grew up an avid reader and went on to study literature in college.
After eight years of jotting notes and building a fantasy world, she has finally begun releasing novels in her Tales of Nōl'Deron series. They will feature many of the same characters, but each novel will stand alone. She hopes to have her second novel completed in Fall 2013.
Goodreads book link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17971359-a-story-of-river