Mostly fluid prose and sprawling lore make Wolf’s fantasy series worth visiting
In the past year or so I’ve transitioned the majority of my novel consumption to the audiobook format. I’ve discovered that audio allows me to keep “reading” even when I can’t find time to sit and physically open a book. My runs, my commute, even while at work, I can still delve into sprawling stories.
It was on Audible that I first encountered author Matthew Wolf. His novel The Knife’s Edge, Book One of the Ronin Saga, had appeared in my Audible app as a “Recommended for You” selection. The recommendation certainly piqued my interest. Looking into the story further I discovered the Ronin Saga is a nine-book epic fantasy revolving around elemental warriors and set in the magical realm of Farhaven. It focuses on the main characters of Gray, Ayva, and Darius who discover they are incarnations of the Ronin, legendary warriors with power over a specific element the likes of which have not been seen in a millennia. Unfortunately, the legends about the Ronin have grown dark in the warriors’ absence, and those ancient incarnations became viewed as killers and traitors. In a world where a true evil is rising, Gray and his companions must throw off the old legends and travel to the elemental cities to find the other Ronin in order to save Farhaven.
The synopsis fit my preference for high fantasy with developed lore and epic plotlines, and I was even more interested in picking up the first audiobook because it was narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds (a master of the trade!). But at the time I received that recommendation I had just completed another large fantasy series, so I ultimately passed on the series for some lighter fare.
Several months later a friend of mine told me about Tides of Fate. It’s a novel on Kickstarter, he said, and the fourth entry in a fantasy series. Would I be interested in connecting with him? Of course, I was interested! Imagine my surprise when I realized the author was Matthew Wolf, whose novel I’d seen so many months prior on Audible.
While I wasn’t able to read more than a sample of Tides of Fate (no secret previews, unfortunately!) and a short story, “Visions of a Hidden,” which is set in the same world as the larger Ronin Saga, I was suddenly reminded of why the series interested me in the first place.
In my experience, only when an author truly understands his or her characters can the dialogue be written so seamlessly that I forget the characters are on the page, not standing in the room. Only when an author already lives in the same world as those characters can the descriptions be detailed enough to immerse, but not overwhelm, me.
I believe Wolf has succeeded in achieving these experiences. In just a few short pages I started to feel the pages fading away to reveal Farhaven, home of the Ronin Saga. Granted, the pages I’ve read are only a small handful compared to the larger collection of four novels. However, I’d argue that even in those few pages I’ve been able to glean much about Wolf’s capabilities as an author. At its best, Wolf’s prose is playful and smooth, especially in “Visions of a Hidden.” This is most apparent during Rydel’s training with the Terma and his conversations with Elisaria. The character dialogue moves the story from sequence to sequence without effort. At times when conversation is absent, such as Rydel’s travels through Drymaus Forest, the prose becomes evocative of classic myths and fairytales: flitting from point to point with poetic flourishes along the way.
While I’ll admit I did not love everything about the segments I read, sometimes finding the generally easy reading to be interrupted with stilted or forced language, I am curious to revisit Wolf’s Ronin Saga. There’s great potential in his massive world of Farhaven. I’m very curious to find out what power lies in those lands.
Tides of Fate, Book Four of the Ronin Saga by Matthew Wolf is available now for pre-order on Kickstarter. A sample chapter from the book and the short story “Visions of a Hidden” are accessible to the public for download. I received no compensation for this write-up.