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Mostly Cross Posts from my blog, Readings From the Dark Side

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Undiluted - Dayton Idoni 3.5

The world building is wildly ambitious for this story, and mostly it's really impressive. I really liked the basic set-up of Djinn vs. humans and the alternative historical setting; the characterization and action set-ups were likewise very strong.

For me at least, this felt like a draft, which makes sense given the time constraints of the Loves' Landscape prompt-to-publication timeline. But most of the story's info-delivery was really rough, both the opening preface and a lot of the "dialogue" about what is happening, much of which fall into the trap of having a character explain to another character things that both must already know. Those conversations contrast markedly with the scenes where the characters are acting or talking as themselves--that is, not as explicators of the fantasy world. I also found the fantasy set-up to be seriously confusing. In my experience, fantasy fans differ sharply in how much complexity they like in their invented worlds. The example I always come back to is World of Warcraft, which possesses a fantasy set-up so unbelievably complex that it becomes essentially inaccessible to those who are not already immersed or who are not very highly motivated and willing to pour over an encyclopedia's worth of opaque and confusing mythology. (The author does inform us in his bio that he is a big fan of video games.)

All of this is to say, that I found this set-up to be on the far end of the opaque/complexity spectrum, to the point that it would take more effort than I was likely to spend unpacking it all. This is an added reason to be very leery of info-dumps. Moreover, what appealed to me most about the book were the less arcane and to me more human aspects of the story--the relationship between Ren and Bronson and their engaging, slow-burn romance, the landscape of the city of New Yarlynn, the great action sequences, and the more small scale fantasy aspects like Ren's problems controlling his powers, the power of salt to negate magic, the blood-dealer, all of which could be incorporated without much explanation.

My gut tells me we will be seeing more fantasy works from Mr. Idoni, and I am personally very excited to read what he comes up with. In a few short months he managed to put together a remarkably complex, complete fantasy universe. My hope is that in future books, he will take pity on those of us who are unable to dive into the uber-complex mythologies found in the gaming universe, and instead allow his amazing world to reveal itself gradually over time, coming into focus through his characters' choices and reactions to the world they inhabit.