D.L. Gardner’s Ian’s Realm Saga
ABOUT D.L. GARDNER: https://www.gardnersart.com/
The wide-ranging scale of D.L. Gardner’s Ian’s Realm Saga, encompassing three books, pays tribute to Gardner’s imaginative powers and ambition. Though devotees of epic fantasy will recognize a number of familiar genre elements built into the plot, Gardner succeeds in distinguishing her tale from past offerings in this vein thanks to the emotion she’s able to elicit from readers and the fully realized clarity of her fictional world. She labels the three books as “parts” in this collection – the first, Deception Peak, the second Dragon Shield, and the concluding third part Rubies and Robbers. One of the many strengths of the book lies in the coherence of its construction – Gardner’s aptitude for cinematic grandeur in a literary vein and understanding what makes epic fantasy work is unquestionable.
Some will notice overwrought prose scattered throughout Ian’s Realm Saga, but it isn’t the result of an amateurish approach to writing. Instead, I read these moments as manifestations of Gardner’s passion for the work. She sometimes tries too hard to ratchet up the intensity rather than trusting in her tale, but her wont to do so works in favor at some points. Some will fault her for relying too often on overworked dialogue tags. These are far from fatal flaws however and, moreover, often staples of the genre in the case of the last point regarding dialogue tags. She manages a large cast of characters and imbues an impressive number of them with three dimensional attributes rather than reducing the minor participants into cardboard glorified plot devices.
The narrative spends some time alternating between our modern world and Gardner’s fictional creation. Gardner excels balancing two different landscapes where other writers might fall short. The titular figure Ian is, in my estimation, the most successful character in a book full of such achievements. He fulfills many, if not all, of our expectations for such a work – Ian begins the book grieving, but he evolves and changes throughout the course of the three books and ends the work transformed by his experiences.
She imbues the tale with a real sense of adventure and her aforementioned imaginative powers make fictional landscapes leap out from the text. She shows a sure hand with the story’s action sequences as well. There are many fine examples of her talent with this, but my favorite comes in the final part with the chapter entitled “The Battle of Eastern Ridge”. It is a success due to many factors, but above all others is how her descriptive powers bring the scene into focus for readers. It makes for gripping reading.
The use of artwork throughout the book, including the map before the story begins, brings a welcome added dimension to Ian’s Realm. The digital copy I read is professionally assembled and never a chore to follow. I feel satisfied with the story’s inevitable conclusion and it, once again, demonstrates her innate understanding of what makes epic fantasy work for readers. The genre has abiding appeal, evidenced in recent years by the popularity of such fare like HBO’s Game of Thrones, and any lover of the style will find much to admire and enjoy in D.L. Gardner’s work.