Have you ever seen a Rube Goldberg machine, where ordinary objects are taken and put together in such a way that a single act of motion is perpetuated throughout a sequence? They’re fun, fascinating, and are really hard to watch just once. Jeffery L. Kohanek’s book, Wizardoms: Eye of Obscurance, is like a Rube Goldberg machine. And it is really wonderful.
This book follows a few main characters as they explore the wizardoms of Kohanek’s world. One is Rhoa, an acrobat turned thief who is seeking out a particular artefact in order to seek revenge. She then meets Jace, a thief turned… thief who is seeking that same artefact for a rather large amount of money. Enter Rawk, a dwarf exiled from his people who has never seen nor interacted with the outside world. Then, there is Salvon, a storyteller who appears to hold mysteries from a time long forgotten. These characters meet and must join up in order to perform a particular act that will set a chain of events in motion that will forever change the world. For how can a normal person, in a world ruled by wizards, defeat a person whose power rivals a god?
There are a lot of different elements that go into this story. First off is the worldbuilding. It is familiar enough that the reader has a grasp of what is going on: instead of kingdoms, the world is broken into wizardoms, but there are magical and non-magical people, and the world works much as one would expect of a fantasy novel. That expectation and familiarity, though are enhanced so as to make things much more interesting and detailed and unique. The world comes alive under Kohanek’s guidance and I, for one, really like the result. It’s like watching a modern movie as compared to the old movie (except the modern movie has just a good a story); things are more fleshed out and vibrant than before. And it works spectacularly well with this particular set of characters.
None of these characters—except one, who is more the exception than anything—is from the upper echelons of society. These people are trying to make their own way and affect change without the benefits that power and position and wealth can bring. This means that their struggles are much more relatable than fantastical. With the worldbuilding being so vibrant, a bit of relatable reality is just what this story needs. As for the fleshing out of the characters, well, that was done quite well also.
Throughout the story, the reader learns more and more about the characters through their interactions with their surroundings and compatriots, as well as through strategic sequences of flashback and storytelling. These sequences serve to make the characters feel like actual people who have developed and grown over the course of their lives, as well as that of the story. In short, they’re great to read. Rawk, the dwarf with alopecia, is my favourite. He seems to be on such uncertain footing, having been thrown into a world that makes absolutely no sense to him. And yet he still manages to forge connections and find his way. That and stonecrafting is just really cool. Rhoa is also one of my favourites, but that could be simply for her snark.
As for the actual writing, Kohanek’s prose is not reminiscent of any great 18th or 19th century literature, nor is it distinctive for being unique in a strange way that some modern pieces try to attain. The writing is smooth, even, easy to access and basically falls away as you read. The writing is not important; the story is. This is an impressive thing to accomplish, given that I am often very aware of the actual writing. (Being a linguist and a writer, I am perhaps too aware of words sometimes, which can make it difficult to be truly engrossed in a story.) Even the flashback sequences and the storytelling sequences by Salvon were integrated seamlessly into the story and did not feel awkward or out-of-place as can often happen. In short, I was drawn into this story from the beginning and enjoyed it thoroughly. Did it take me to new heights as some classic literature does? No. But that really doesn’t matter.
This is usually the point in the review where I talk about my critiques for the work. For this piece… I don’t really have any. This story was well thought out, entertaining, it drew me in and I was never bored or uninterested. The characters were varied and none of them dislikeable to the point where they ruined the story (Jace’s jokes, though, were a bit on the “oh, piffle” side of things, but that’s besides the point). Frankly, this book was exactly what I would hope for from a fantasy of this sort. So I don’t really have any critiques.
Overall, Wiazardoms: Eye of Obscurance was a highly entertaining read. I enjoyed myself from start to finish and I am curious to see where the next book will take me. This is one I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun fantasy adventure with a healthy dose of snarky, strong characters thrown in. I think I can safely say this made my best books read in 2020 list.