Author: Joe Dayvie
Publication Date: 1 March 2022
Available As: Paperback, hardback, and e-book
Humans and quorians have a long and troubled history, blaming one another for the terrible events from the distant past. Presumed to be extinct, the quorian race live in seclusion while the humans prosper throughout the land.
The illusion of peace is shattered when a young quorian and his friend venture into a forbidden terrain. In an attempt to flee, one of them is captured by a man while the other barely escapes with his life.
As the quorians plan a rescue, and the leader of the exiled celebrates a recent capture, a legendary King recruits a young man to protect his own interests from unexpected turmoil.
So, it’s been a long time concern of mine that I don’t really read that much fantasy; this is a little odd as I enjoy fantasy films and videogames, but it’s rare that a fantasy book really captures my attention or interests me. However, I try my best to not let this sort of bias influence my opinion on books I read; just because fantasy or crime/noir or even romance aren’t my go-to genres doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a book or see some merit in the writing of those genres, and I feel I’ve done a pretty good job so far of being fair in my reviews of genres I am not all that familiar with. All this context is to say that I was excited to get into Archaic Deception #1: The Guardian of Emblems; I’d seen the book on my social media and it certainly looks tantalising, with the hardcover edition being particularly striking. The book is quite the sprawling epic, featuring an abundance of characters from all over the vast fictional world of Diveria, a land that is both similar to our but also different in many ways, with kingdoms, urban areas, and forgotten realms all co-existing alongside a deep, rich mythos and lore.
The primary inciting incident of Archaic Deception is the capture of Promit, a near-mythical creature known as a quorian who were believed to have been hunted to extinction during a great purging by the God-like Divinity King. He’s captured and imprisoned inside a magical rod by two mercenaries, Mortimer and Vanilor, who are promised (and receive) a substantial reward from the brutish Brugōr, ruler of the Barren Land. During their long journey back to Brugōr, Mortimer comes to regret his shameful actions and eventually winds up falling in with a group of rebels seeking to end Brugōr’s rule and we follow a number of these dissidents (Osvita, a renowned cook hired to cater for a banquet celebrating Brugōr’s victory and her close friend, Nigel) in their desperate attempt to infiltrate Brugōr’s fortified home and deceives him. However, Promit’s kidnapping has far reaching ramifications; for one thing, his friend, Smolar, is wracked with guilt at having endangered his companion by recklessly leaving the safety of their hidden city, the Quo, and is determined to rescue him. His dreams and aspirations of exploring the wider world beyond the magical barrier protecting them are fulfilled when he is granted permission to seek out Promit by the quorian leader, the troubled Lady Vixa, who charges Promit, his lifelong friend Fravia, and the hulking Rhugor with a dangerous rescue mission after her previous attempts to retrieve Promit are met with failure. If I had to compare Smolar, his party, and the quorians to anything it would probably be the Hobbits; curious, simple, hidden folk, the quorians are the stuff of legend to the outside world and are capable of all kinds of magical feats thanks to potions, remedies, and ancient relics. These allow them to see and communicate across vast distances, assume other forms to blend in, and even dispel magical barriers.
Most of the quorians are content to stay hidden and protected from further persecution, but others, like Fravia, thirst for knowledge and to explore their lineage, while Smolar is relatively unique amongst his race since he seeks to leave and venture into the outside world. Rhugor is a late addition to the party, but his loyalties lie with Lady Vixa and to safeguarding the sanctity of the Quo, and a brief love triangle even arises between the three of them during their journey, which marks the beginning of a period of great change for the entire race. Finally, there’s the struggles of Jacob Emmerson, a young man from the region of Sartica who suffers from anxiety and is plagued by confusing and often frightening visions. Jacob is recently unemployed and has a somewhat rocky relationship with his family; he’s close to his mother, Anna, who also had similar visions, and his sister, Catherine, but worries about disappointing his father and is positioned as something of an outsider to the wider events of the story. However, it turns out that Jacob has the greatest destiny of all the characters in the book when he discovers his dreams aren’t just nightmares, but the doorway to another realm where mysterious overseers known as “Guardians of the Relics” have worked for generations to ensure the fragile stability of Diveria. Without judgement or bias, these Guardians have safeguarded the many ancient relics that are scattered across the world to keep them from falling into the wrong hands; Brugōr is in possession of such a relic and it is directly tied to his rule, and Jacob is suddenly faced with the prospect of protecting these relics from those who would pervert their power. Often ruled by self-doubt and questioning both his life choices and his suitability for such a destiny, Jacob is the explicit “Everyman” character of the book but by no means is he the only everyday Joe in the story; each of the characters and different storylines explore a number of places, areas in regions of Diveria, and encounter many other side characters, some of whom crop up more than once and all of whom have different parts to play, both major and minor. Osvita’s unscrupulous husband, Whark, and their young daughter, Rexhia, flesh out Osvita’s character and provide suitable motivation for her to stray from her marriage vows. Similarly, Jacob’s family are very prominent to his plot and he faces a moral quandary when he’s forbidden from discussing his new duties with anyone, especially his beloved mother.
The author certainly goes to great pains to create a vast, rich fictional world full of characters; it seems like we’re being introduced to new characters, concepts, and expanding the lore of Diveria with every other chapter, which can get a little daunting and does make it a little tricky to keep track of where everyone is, who they are, and what they’re doing. However, the author definitely creates some well-rounded and complex characters, with his handful of primary protagonists undergoing a number of changes and experiencing a number of revelations as their journeys progress. These range from turning characteristics long feared or regarded as a negative into a positive, thereby empowering them in ways they could never have expected, admitting to a long hidden love, and accepting that it’s time to pass the torch to a younger generation and return to the wider world. Diveria’s locations are numerous and all very different, though the focus is more on the characters and their exploration of magical or ancient artefacts and technology rather than delving too deeply into describing their surroundings. The chaotic Barren Land and the Brugōr’s castle-like dwelling, the Kurhal, were two exceptions to this as characters traverse the former and the latter is host to a thrilling and climatic sequence at the book’s end. The author also makes pains to depict the Quo and their race as being very enigmatic and almost mythical; thought to have been slaughtered generations prior, their very existence I the subject of great excitement and controversy as it flies in the face of established dogma, and the relics and abilities they are capable of certainly border on the magical for the most part.
Overall, Archaic Deception was quite the deep and complex fantasy tale; for me, it seemed to be evoking the criss-crossed narrative and epic scope so widely popularised by J. R. R. Tolkien, which will probably make it incredibly appealing for fans of his books and the fantasy genre. For me, it was difficult to reconcile with the longer, densely-packed chapters and the sheer multitude of characters and converging plot points. Individually, each of these is intriguing enough and I was certainly curious to see how each character would fare in their quests, and to see how all the different plot threads would intertwine. There’s certainly a lot going on in Archaic Deception; the author has laid the foundations for what will surely become quite the epic fantasy saga, with new avenues and regions to explore and new divine artefacts to discover, and a lot of that work permeates throughout Archaic Deception to set the stage for a sprawling, grandiose fantasy series. I enjoyed the author’s characterisations, the glimpses into the different lore of Diveria and the disparate, multifaceted nature of this fictional world; this is where the book shined for me, and it helped me to keep reading and to see how all these different plot points would converge. It can be a little daunting at times due to the sheer length and how intricate the narrative and its many, many characters can become but I think fans of fantasy epics will certainly find a lot to sink their teeth into here, and I had a good time with many aspects of it.
If you’re interested in checking out Archaic Deception #1: The Guardian of Emblems, and to learn more about Joe Dayvie and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.