S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars
“…all seemed like a ghost that he could scarcely remember…”
There is a lot to like in Tom Barczak’s Veil of the Dragon. Barczak is an artist/architect who delivers a splendid adventure with interesting characters, a beautiful style, and a haunting medieval setting. Veil of the Dragon is well-done, angelic warfare. Occasional sketches by the author are a nice touch, but they are not finished or abundant enough to affect the read. Barczak’s dreamy style carries the story well enough on its own (see excerpts below). Expect a poetic read, with lots of combat with demons, ghosts, and angels.
The two primary characters are neatly designed and paired: “Al-Aaron”, a young priest-warrior, serves as a teacher of sorts to the older “Chaelus,” a prince dragged into a battle for redemption. The child leads the adult in a believable, interesting way. They battle a disembodied evil (the titular Dragon), and those it has corrupted: the wraith-like Remnants. Chaelus is haunted by a former love, the loss of a mother, and a deadly relationship with his father.
Christianity is not overtly identified, but readers will detect its influence given the inclusion of:
- Ever present themes of redemption
- Lots of resurrection
- A magic system based on blind faith
- A medieval milieu with priest-warriors (Crusaders): these are the white robed, chain mailed Servian Knights, adorned with red, prostrate crosses on their chests. They are equipped with cloth covered swords and vowed to use their weapons only against intangible demons
- Angelic warfare between a merciful Creator/Giver and a Dragon/Serpent who assumes shadowy form that can poison souls (arguably a more effective dark-force than Tolkien’s Sauron)
"Behind him, a bitter sigh resounded through the bent and broken wood. The forest was speaking. Behind him, the path he’d only just cleared had gone. From the trees, shadows bled like oil, folding down amidst the branches.”Demonic Creatures:
“His breath held like a vapor. The Dragon’s whisper splintered across the frozen air.”
“The stones trembled as they changed, melting away like ice upon spring water. The passage closed in ahead of him.”
"Illuminating from beneath the water like a fallen angel, ghostlike in her glow, a girl child lay drawn in upon herself. Her head was shaven and her skin was bare. Ebony spandrels laced out from the black spots that covered her. Her lips moved faintly upon her upturned face. Her gray eyes flickered. A shadow turned in the water beside her, matching the one within.”
"The spirits’ breath hung like a black vapor in tendrils about them. Armored veils hid all but the abyss of their eyes. Beneath them, their acrid laughter shrilled out amidst the grinding clatter of their teeth. Yet it wasn’t laughter. No; it was a desperate sound, one of anticipation, the kind that a starving cur utters for carrion."
"The demons drew closer beyond the wall of shadow, their armored veils now torn aside. The terror of their empty eyes was bettered only by their ghoulish maws beneath, filled with beast-like teeth meant for the consumption of souls, the corpses of the Khaalish, torn and cast away beneath them. Unsated, they howled at the ones who had retreated from them."
"…a black and bloodied claw emerged, grasping at its edge. Sand clung to its wet, skinless flesh. The creature pulled its body up, pushing its way past the heavy bones that had caged it. It clambered until it stood, stooped and broken, naked in the rawness of its gray flesh.”
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