“I have crossed an ocean to come here, but my journey is yet in its infancy. I stand at the cusp of a formidable expedition, and I cannot say to what far reaches my journey will take me, or what might be waiting for me. I can only say that I have come to discover a past that has remained hidden for too long. I have come to exhume an empire…”
I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across Gideon’s Wall by Greg Kurzawa. I think I might have been browsing around Amazon looking for something new, but I honestly can’t recall how I heard about this small gem. The book is tragic in every sense of the word, and by the end you can’t help but set it aside and reflect for a while. I was recently browsing topics on a SFF forum, and one person was complaining about too many “heavy themes” in fantasy. He was arguing that fantasy should be an escape from the day to day grind, and that heavier themes should be reserved for works of nonfiction. I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement and I think fantasy is a perfect platform to explore human nature. Gideon’s Wall was exactly the kind of story that proves my point.
The ancient empire of Shallai has all but vanished from the face of the earth. What exactly happened has been lost to time, but an Archaist is determined to find out. The opening chapters really set the scene for the entire story. The first few chapters read like a journal and it fills the reader with a real sense of loneliness and unease. The archaist makes his way to the ancient city of Shallai and has a dream telling him that the answers to his questions lie at Gideon’s wall. After stumbling across an old map he finds a small speck that reveals Gideon’s wall’s location.
After arriving at Gideon’s wall the archaist finds it in ruins. Once the archaist and his team of explorers begin to excavate the surrounding area of Gideon’s wall the real fun begins. Strange dreams, hallucinations, and paranoia fill the crew’s minds as they begin their excavation. The archaist eventually stumbles across a small wooden idol. During the night the idol whispers to the archaist and this is where the actual story begins.
The story is essentially one big flashback, and although you already know the fate of Gideon’s wall, you can’t help but root for the characters within. This element really gave the story a tragic feel, because you already know the fate of the characters. The desert setting that Kurzawa describes is bleak and miserable, but it also has its own beauty. I was reminded of my deployment to Afghanistan during my reading, and I suspect that Greg Kurzawa has also spent some time in the desert, because he captured it perfectly.
The story is short and clocks in around 300 pages, I read it in two sittings. I’m puzzled as to how this one flew under everyone’s radar! I think fantasy fans of all tastes will find something to like here, but fans of Middle-Eastern settings will be especially pleased. I can’t help but feel like the archaist in the story because like him I stumbled across a story that is worth reading. Anyone who needs a break from the door-stopping epics of fantasy should cleanse their palates with this little treasure. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed!