The Mighty, Book 1 Of The Druid’s Guise is one of those rare fantasy tales that takes you to another plane while keeping you firmly grounded in our reality. Most fantastic tales, even the best ones, often take characters from our reality and plunge them into a magical world, separating them from their normal lives entirely, only to return them at the end having completed their quest. The Mighty takes you on the journey, but plants your feet firmly in the present, real world. While the character grows and accomplishes the tasks set in front of him, it is clear from the outset that this is an introduction to a sprawling universe that has much more to give us. This is a book that will scratch the adventuring itch as well as remind you that the world we come from is itself a broken and unjust place. Wyatt is a hero in both of these planes.
The story begins with Wyatt as a new patient/student at a school for children with special psychological needs. To Wyatt, he alternates existence in this world and the land of Hagion, where he is believed to be a powerful wizard and combat tactician, and not just a boy without a home who likely lies somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Wyatt’s journey can be taken as a coming-of-age tale for those who see themselves in captivity. It is a bildungsroman that takes place in the mind, and the depth and reality of Hagion is indeed seen almost entirely through the eyes of our protagonist, who we are shown from the outset might not be entirely in control of his cognition. This allows the reader to give as much credence to the fantastical elements as they like. Is Wyatt really a transplanar avatar, imposing his will across vast distances of time and space? Or is he a young and unwell child, abandoned and coping by escaping from reality? The book will pull you in both directions, and Wyatt’s story hits all of the emotional notes.
The supporting cast of characters compliments both worlds. In the children’s home of Shephard’s Crook, Wyatt is antagonized by bullies, managed by a staff of volunteers and social workers and befriends a girl with a troubled past named Athena. In the fantasy realm, he is beset upon by all manner of fantastic beasts, ranging from half-flora/half-fauna fern wolves to the undead Fallen and the ominous Regents. He makes friends in the form of Mareck and Gareck, two golem-like beings who call themselves Children, in service to the Mother. He also meets a character that is very much like Athena in the Draygan (a half-dragonlike race) Rozen. At the beginning we are told that the world of Hagion is a vast and fantastic place, and a map Wyatt wields (albeit poorly) reveals locations like The Barren Plains, The Endless Sea, Krémnos, The Wastes, The Shadow Forest, Ouranos, Mesos, and the Peaks of Servitude. Fans of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien will find lots to like about the main quest, punctuated with gritty action sequences that will have you imagining them taking place on the big screen. The pacing is good for an adventure tale, and the dialogue is sharp and funny. The book is well-edited overall and great care has been taken to shape the world of Hagion.
The Mighty, Druid’s Guise Book I sets up a series with a lot of room to grow. The characters we are introduced to are quirky, but have a lot of depth. The places we are brought to are brilliantly realized and the author’s attention to detail is reminiscent of the great classics of fantasy. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and give this first adventure of Wyatt, The Mighty 5 stars.