Path of Glory
Path of Glory (Book 1: Boundary’s Fall)
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When the enchanted mountain barrier called the Boundary begins to fail, releasing two tyrannical leaders, Tylor “the Bull of Ta Tachan” and Salos Durange, and threatening to release the ancient Darklord Lorthas, the fate of Madryn hangs in the balance. “Path of Glory” is the first novel in this epic fantasy, which tells the story of three young heroes: Jeran Odara, Dahr, and Prince Martyn.
The story begins when fourteen-year-old orphan Jeran meets twelve-year-old runaway slave Dahr on the outskirts of the small farming village where his uncle lives. Uncle Aryn agrees to take Dahr in, and the two boys swiftly become fast friends. But when a wounded Guardsman staggers onto the farm late one night, bearing news that Tylor and Salos have escaped the inescapable prison, their lives swiftly change.
“Path of Glory” follows Jeran and Dahr as they flee on a desperate mission to tell the king of Alrendria their news while being hunted by the vengeful brothers. Although the first half of the book is a straightforward chase, the second half, which picks up seven years later, becomes a political tale of diplomacy, espionage, and bloodshed. Jeran and Dahr have grown up with King Mathis’ son, Martyn, and together the three friends must travel on a mission to forge an alliance with the reclusive elves, at the invitation of Emperor Alwellyn of the forests of Illendrylla. On the road, they must each face their own secrets, fears, and powers: Jeran, his untutored ability in the shunned art of magic; Dahr, his heritage as a slave and a member of the wild Garun’ah; and Martyn, his privileged and sheltered upbringing. Prejudice, friendship, romance, and adventure are all interwoven in this sweeping saga of growing up in a time of turmoil.
Although the novel begins slowly, it’s worth sticking with, as it picks up its pace by Chapter Five. The preface, “Remembrance,” was clearly intended to provide historical background, but it slows the story down and is unnecessary, given the amount of history related to the reader throughout the book. The reader may want to skip right over it and start at Chapter One. Similarly, the first few chapters of interaction between Jeran, Dahr, and Aryn are awkwardly written, with too much reliance on anecdotes and exclamation points, as the book seeks to develop a sense of “golden times” soon to be disrupted by tragedy. However, these initial bumps, not unexpected in a new writer’s work, fade away once the action begins, and soon the reader is more than willing to forgive the slow start. Once buildings start to burn and blood starts to flow, Funk unleashes his talent, setting Jeran and Dahr on a grueling and believable journey across the countryside with a small army hot on their trail.
Funk shines when it comes to characterization, especially in the second half of the novel, when the boys have become young men. Jeran, Dahr, and Martyn are likable, rounded characters, as are many of the supporting cast, such as King Mathis, the king’s wisely unhinged grandmother Sionel, gruff Lord Iban, and courageous Guardsman Katya. Even the two villains of the piece, Tylor and Salos Durange, are admirable for their familial loyalty and affection. Refreshingly, Funk avoids the sexist cliches common in many other fantasy works by male authors— although the story revolves around three male protagonists, the female characters are just as competent and powerful, and they command the same amount of respect as men in Madryn.
“Path of Glory” is epic fantasy, but not high fantasy. The land of Madryn is rich with history, but while such detail is often provided gratuitously in fantasy novels, Funk sees that the lessons are made relevant later, when characters visit places the reader learned about in earlier stories or witness rituals informed by the events of earlier ages. Moreover, one feels that the legal and economic background of the land is realistic; even the existence of magic is handled in a way that makes it plausibly fit into the work’s low-fantasy setting. It’s a good setting for the novel, which doesn’t seek to dazzle the reader with fireworks, but rather draws the reader into the characters’ personal lives and conflicts.
The epic sweep of the story, the boundary of mountains locking away evil, the tales of races uniting in a fight against an ancient mage, and the constant references to a heroic past will inevitably draw comparisons between Boundary’s Fall and The Lord of the Rings. However, “Path of Glory” stands on its own: while it honors the conventions of fantasy with its epic plot, it is really a thoughtful examination of three unique young men struggling to rise to the personal and political challenges before them.
Sequel Review: Sword of Honor
Recommended readers: Any; the novel’s themes of growth and self-revelation, and the lack of offensively violent or sexual content, make it especially suitable as a gift for preteens and young teens.