I downloaded K. J. Simmill’s Darrienia (The Forgotten Legacies Series Book I) to my Kindle with high hopes, as the novel was the recipient of the 2016 Independent Author Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Fantasy. It took over two weeks, and upon finishing I have to concur that the story is nothing short of outstanding.
The plot is wildly imaginative. The setting occurs in a fantasy realm consisting of gods, monsters, demons, dragons, warriors, and sorcerers, with Greek mythology influencing the background. There is mention of Olympus and the underworld, with the Greek gods, demigods, and titans as a reference, though the mortal world is different altogether. The storyline is extremely complex, as the author goes into detail about the background of many different elements and entities. I’ll admit that it’s a lot to take in, and at times it felt like my brain was being overloaded with information to the point which I wasn’t quite sure I could follow along with it all. But, being a fantasy, I decided to just go with it and try not to dissect everything. I will say that there are several forces at play in this story, for good or for evil, with their own agenda.
The main characters are very unique. I must refrain from giving the background story of each as I don’t wish to include too many spoilers in this review, and each character’s background is also very lengthy and detailed. In summary, there are five who travel together for what appears to be a common purpose: to save a god-like race known as the Onerois, and stop the demi-god, Night, from unsealing the Severaine, an artifact that would not only restore his powers, but also bring catastrophic events upon the world.
The first of the five, also the main character, is Zoella (Zo), who is the most dynamic. She has a kind, caring, and gentle soul, gifted with the healing arts of Hectarian magic. She has little memory of her past, and is also mostly unaware of an alternate persona residing within her, a dark, bloodthirsty assassin named Marise Shi, the very opposite of Zo. She is the fantasy version of Jekyll and Hyde. She struggles inside to suppress this darkness inside her, but finds her strength within the friendship she shares with the others in her group.
Her best friend is Daniel Eliot, a young man who lacks in combat skill, but makes up for it with his strong heart. His perseverance is always present as he refuses to allow Zo to struggle alone. Zo and Daniel’s mutual friend
Acha is a mystery. She also has a unique ability that is both a blessing and a curse, but you’ll have to read the story to understand as it is complex. She is a bit naïve, and doesn’t always make the best choices, but her intentions are always what she believes are for the good of her friends.
The other two of this party are Elly and Eiji. Elly leads the others on their quest, which the others are sometimes unsure of, but she seems to always know where to go and what to do. Though she does well to keep the group together, where her loyalties truly lie are always in question as she keeps much to herself, and sometimes even seems to manipulate the others without their knowing it. Eiji is a young Elementalist who, unlike the others, is not part of the group by choice. He must go along with Elly and the others for his own life’s sake, but as the story unfolds, he finds himself growing attached to his companions.
I think characterization is one of the best aspects of this story. Aside from Acha, whose background is thought to be revealed, but we’re still not sure by the end, and it also seems like she contributes the least (perhaps we will learn more of her background in the second book of the series, and her purpose will also be more defined), the other four characters are consistently and truly believable, and as the reader I could not help becoming attached to Zo, Daniel, and Eiji. Daniel especially. Throughout the adventure I found myself hoping for him to come into his own, to overcome the struggle, or for once to right the wrongs. Instead he always seems to get into trouble and constantly needs saving, but he never stops giving his all to try to protect those he cares for. All in all, the friendship between the characters is a central theme in this story, as it seems to be what keeps them going. Even Elly. I don’t want to reveal too much, but her hidden agenda, which is not in the same interest as the others, is still fueled by friendship (though with whom I will not say).
Another very unique element of this book is the concept that the characters travel between two worlds that are connected: their own, and that of Darrienia, the world of dreamers. The two are parallel to some extent, but they are separate all the same. The five adventurers have been given the mark of a rune branded on their arms which allow them to travel between the two worlds in order to find different runes that they need to complete their quest. The dork in me is reminded of The Legend of Zelda games, particularly A Link to the Past and Twilight Princess. If you are familiar with those, you understand the concept of two parallel worlds that are geographically the same but different rules apply and different creatures reside. Still, it is a fantastic concept, and I must applaud K. J. Simmill for not only creating an entire realm for the setting, but also an alternate one as well. That, along with the extensive background, shows that she had put an incredible amount of imagination into this, and her use of sensory details in each chapter are superb. You truly feel like you are pulled into this double world!
Speaking of the extensive background, which I mentioned before, I will admit that it is a lot to take in and requires pages and pages of details. With that being said, (and add the fact that the story takes its characters on many adventures to find each of the runes, each with its own challenge and hardship) understand that this is a very lengthy book. Like, The Lord of the Rings lengthy. If that’s not your thing, I get it. But, this is a fantasy story in a fantasy world. Stories like these are meant to be epic. It wouldn’t be an adventure if you could read it in one or two days, now would it?
As far as the complexity of the storyline and background are concerned, some may not find this book to be to their liking as it can be confusing. It’s not an easy read. In fact, this is very much like a complicated movie that you’re not going to get everything the first time you watch it. There are those movies in which each time you watch them, you get a little more out of it. This book is like that. Some of you may not like having to read something more than once, especially when reading it once can be time consuming. They way I see it, however, is that I’m getting more bang for my buck. The fantastic thing about it is that reading it a second time will not seem redundant, so you truly are getting your money’s worth by making the purchase.
In conclusion, Darrienia offers us a chance to take an hour out of our busy, routine lives every day and escape into another world where we feel ourselves journeying beside the well written characters. It’s truly the way an adventure should be, and I for one prefer those adventures that last a little while; those adventures that can be experienced more than once without the “been there, done that” feeling. I look forward to going back through the pages of Simmill’s masterpiece a second time just to see what new treasures I can discover!
Bravo to Ms. Simmill, whose Independent Author Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Fantasy is well deserved!