Do you love The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, or any other number of epic fantasy stories? I read the first chapter or two online and was hooked by Munnin’s Keep, so when it came across our desks I had to barter with Marcy to get to review this one.
As a huge fan of historical fantasy, I am familiar with all the standard epic fantasy fare: unfulfilled prophecies, spiritual quests, mythic creatures, reluctant heroes, and epic battles. And Munnin’s Keep delivered. (The wingless dragon was pretty cool, I have to say. Sounds much more intimidating and fearsome than a really big lizard, don’t you think? 🙂
Set in the turbulent ninth century in Britain, Theodric awakens as a slave near death with no memory of his own past or current circumstance. With the help of a collection of colourful characters, Theodric discovers he is the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy, and works to see that prophesy fulfilled in his own way.
While I was excited to see the afore-mentioned staples of the genre, I was disappointed by the lack of unique twist to those same epic devices. Without the unique twists the unfulfilled prophesy becomes predictable and the reluctant hero annoying. (In all fairness, I felt like smacking Aragorn after a while when it was obvious he would be King and refused to step up. I’m not the most patient of readers.)
However, what I really loved about this book, was the spiritual quest the hero undertook. I thought it was an honest, insightful and intelligent look at the traditions and customs of the Church. With rich historical details, the author excellently debunked the false nature of pagan cultures that thrive on fear and subterfuge—and then exposed the hypocrisy in the Church.
I would have liked to see that debate through. We knew what didn’t work for the pagans and for the Church, so what does? The hero never explored Christianity with the same insight and introspection that debunked the pagan cultures and would have given Christos credibility in that early polytheistic society. I would have liked that storyline more developed. That’s what made this story truly unique.
I enjoyed the small romantic sideline and thought the characters well-rounded and colourful. I found the suspense elements a little flat, but the spiritual journey of Theodric kept me reading. All in all, a novel that will make you think on certain levels, and at the same time provide that pleasant afternoon escape fiction lovers crave.
Munnin’s Keep by Brian C. Austin