I just finished Vaetra Unveiled by Daniel Marvello. It was a delightful read! I wanted to write up my reactions to it.
Vaetra Unveiled is a classic swords-and-sorcery novel. There is action, suspense, and charm amongst the characters. Daniel does a great job at world building in the sense that I could imagine everywhere the story took me without getting bogged down in it.
For the record, I have also read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, paragons of high fantasy. Sometimes Tolkien’s world building, or rather culture/history/mythology building would overload me, causing me to sometimes skip over songs and other material.
I enjoyed seeing how magic was presented. Daniel’s take on magic is quite interesting. I promise not to give anything away. The main character, Jaylan Forester, in his various pursuits, begins to encounter magic, something he isn’t used to dealing with. He doesn’t understand it, let alone how it works. As he tries to solve the problem at hand, he discovers his own gifts in that arena. I won’t say more than that, but it was fun adventuring along with Jaylan as he tries to figure out the rules of vaetra.
Having read Doctor Strange comic books for years, I rather enjoyed seeing that vaetra isn’t just made up on a whim. Instead, vaetra appears to have a real set of rules that empower and constrain who can do what. No one has infinite power, and the various characters have to work together to free some innocent “mundanes”.
Which leads me to another good point. I enjoyed that there was real plot as well. As George Lucas stated, the point is to tell a story, not show off the set that was built. There were a couple moments along the way where I felt Jaylan was a bit dimwitted and I thought not “getting it” as fast as I thought he would. But it was only a couple. For what turns out to NOT be a 500-page tome of fantasy, it was nice that I could read it with the Kindle app on my iPhone in about five days. It certainly whets my appetite to the read the rest of the series.
The only con I can think of is that sometimes Jaylan feels a bit simplistic. Perhaps a bit too much of the good side. This may be my own bias after having read the first ten Jack Reacher novels, where when Reacher sees something wrong, he dispenses hard core justice. Jaylan is nothing of the kind. Perhaps a little more nitty gritty and some tougher decisions would strengthen Jaylan’s character. But at the end of the day, his character was believable.
About Daniel Marvello
Daniel has been of great assistance to me. I discovered his blog while working on Python Testing Cookbook. My desire to pick up and write the fictional novel i had started 20 years ago was rekindled as I helped my wife polish her trade novel. Googling about structure and tips, I found Daniel’s article on the details of a beat sheet. Suffice it to say, I wooed him to beta read Darklight. As a beta reader, I felt like he provided me top quality feedback in grammar, diction, and POV.
The side effect is that I developed a desire to read his own craft. A) I enjoy a good story. B) Could he really write fiction analogous to the critique he provided me? C) For a Kindle book, it only cost $3. D) Since my cheapskate days are behind me, I honestly like to support other people that seem to deserve it. I’m glad I did!
Thanks for reviewing “Vaetra Unveiled,” Greg. I’m glad I got your perspective on the story, and I hope you like the other books in the series as well.
Your criticisms regarding Jaylan are fair and accurate. Some of the characteristics you picked up on were intentional, others not so much. 😉 As Jaylan’s character arc develops in the second and third volumes, he is faced with situations that lead him to dispense more hard-core justice, as you put it.
In general, I’m trying to buck the current trend toward dark and violently fantasy, hoping that there are still a few readers out there who prefer good old fashioned action and adventure over angst, gore, and sex. I guess that makes me a PG-13 writer, but that’s okay. The market has room for all of us.
Trying to speak in code (hence not giving anything away), his collection of clues while searching for the boy seemed kind of, “well duh!” But that looked deliberate. I guess we know a lot through traditional culture, but Jaylan I guess wouldn’t know much at all.
I definitely appreciate bucking the trend. After all, that’s what Jack Reacher was. Apparently, before “Killing Floor”, all heroes were “goody two shoes”. Lee Child want to shake that up and make you cheer for the character. You make Jaylan everything you want. I remember as a kid playing D&D and wanting to be neutral evil, something not possible in reality. But then chuckled during Big Bang Theory, when Leonard mention, “and I assume we will be lawful good as always.” That caught me off guard. So I applaud you for carving out something that’s different and fresh.
Regarding PG-13, I really enjoyed “National Treasure”. I watched that whole movie on the edge of my seat, and didn’t even notice it was PG-13. I enjoyed that they proved there was no need to “sex it up” and all that junk. I would be in the same arena given that I’m like that as well. Heck, I’m trying to write with no profanity! That seems hard at certain times, and yet I spend everyday without needing that.
I sincerely hope that you are using the Chronicles to build up Jaylan hopefully for future, independent books. I always remember Lee Childs’ point that stories come and go, but characters last forever when you invest the time.
Giving clues can be tough. Readers often latch on to clues faster than the main character. I think that’s a good thing, as long as you don’t make the character look like a dunce in the process. It’s nice to be surprised by an unexpected plot twist, but it’s also fun to anticipate the moment when the main character finally figures out what is going on. In Jaylan’s case, he spent most of his life avoiding sorcery, so he was reluctant to consider clues that related to sorcery. As you point out, that state of denial was a serious handicap at times.
Your reference to the Big Bang Theory cracked me up. Back when I played D&D, few of us played a Lawful Good character because, if you played them correctly, you limited your options quite a bit. I avoided the Evil alignments as well, usually settling on Chaotic Good.
When I set out to write the Vaetra Chronicles, I wanted to write the kind of book I like to read. It needed to be an adventure story most of all, with as much humor as I could manage (which isn’t much, as it turns out). I’ve grown tired of sweeping epic fantasy featuring an unlikely “chosen one” who must single-handedly save the universe while suffering horror upon horror until the anticlimactic and often tragic end. I wanted to write about a hero with more personal and relatable goals who gets to win once in a while.
I didn’t intend to keep the Vaetra Chronicles as clean as it turned out to be. When I wrote the first book, I didn’t feel comfortable writing profanity or sex, and I had no need for gory battle scenes. I later heard back from a couple of readers who appreciated those characteristics because their middle grade children were reading it. I decided at that point to keep the subsequent books in the series just as mild. I’m not *aiming* for an MG audience, but I also don’t need profanity/sex/gore to tell a story. That said, the first book of my new contemporary paranormal fantasy series does have some profanity and “adult situations.” Nothing shocking, but it is edgy enough to get an R rating as a movie.
My next two books introduce two new series. The first one is the contemporary paranormal story I mentioned, and the one after will be a fantasy western. I plan to return to the Vaetra Chronicles story world after those two releases.
Thanks again for the review. It’s been fun trading thoughts with you.