In September, 2020, Bahrain became the fourth Arab country to officially recognize Israel by agreeing to sign the Abraham Accords negotiated by President Donald Trump. This normalization agreement was a game changer in the Middle East as more and more Arab countries showed their willingness and desire to get to know the Jewish state better, an interest that many Israelis were and are more than happy to reciprocate.
Personally, I always viewed Bahrain as one of those places I’d never be able to visit. Therefore, I never really developed much of an interest in the tiny island nation, even though it happened to be one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, its pearl fisheries used to be world famous, and it was the first country in the Persian Gulf to develop a post-oil economy (although that may be changing). I was really excited when I discovered that Bahrain also had a fantasy author who wrote in English. Unfortunately, like its human rights record, Titanlord: of Death & Sacrifice by M. G. Darwish turned out to be a massive disappointment.
I blame the children
“The ancient history books speak of seven titans. Their divinity has been a matter of debate for hundreds of years. It is said that any man that can strike the fatal blow to one of the seven titans will gain their power.”
The village of Palleria has long been loyal to the king. It was always a peaceful village, but it tended to give birth to heroes who loved to wreak destruction. Normally, this would be plenty excuse for the current King Magmar to obliterate the village. However, the people were always steadfastly loyal, and he had no reason to suspect things would change, but then our teenage protagonists open their mouths.
Rory is the First Sword of Palleria. An accomplished swordswoman, it was her responsibility to keep the village safe from bandits, and train the Pallerian militia. She would frequently engage in practice matches, which gave people a chance to challenge her supremacy, an opportunity that Aizeya, the king’s black-hearted champion couldn’t pass up. The match ended in a draw, but Vendel, Rory’s fangirl was too overwhelmed to let things slide. She reminded Aizeya that he was once humiliated by the Red Hand, a bandit rebel, and things quickly escalated out of control.
Vendel and her best friend Griffyn are forced to flee the village while under the protection of Rory lest the king’s wrath fall on the village. They quickly learn that world shaking events are about to occur. Demons are attacking cities. The long forgotten Titans, guardians of humanity, are making a reappearance, and they themselves seem to have these weird special abilities which they need to learn how to control. All-in-all, everything you need to create a compelling epic fantasy, but somehow it just didn’t work.
Good Fights, Clumsy Writing
“Why is his head not on a spike on the city walls yet? Why? Why?”
This is question I was asking myself about the author while reading this book. Titanlord: of Death & Sacrifice is one of those books that gets an A for effort, and that’s mostly it. There was a lot of potential in this story, but it required a lot more for it to really come to life.
Let’s start with the world. There is no real magic system in this world, only a handful of Titans with epic level abilities, and regular humans. There are also demons that make an appearance, underground dwellers, a mythical origin story, but they are sparce. Most fantastic element in this world, make a single appearance for a specific scene and then fade away into the background. To me as a reader, this felt as though the epic level fantasy I was reading was for a significant percentage of the story barren of any real fantastic elements, which was a shame because I felt as though the premise was really great, and the action was actually pretty decent.
There are some great battle scenes in this book. Not all of them, but definitely a few good ones. When demons attacked the city where the protagonists were sheltering (the only demon attack in the book), you get to experience what looks to be a well planned out battle that makes sense, but this was a rarity. Too often the outcomes were crudely adjusted to further move the story along, and this made the stakes not feel all that real – even though this wasn’t always the case.
The author does kill characters in this book, although I won’t say which. Normally these killings would increase my emotional investment in the story. However, other characters are previously very obviously saved, too many times, and this left me feeling not particularly moved when someone died.
Part of the reason for my disappointment with the book has to do with the writing style. It’s very heavy handed. The author tells us exactly what the characters are feeling, and why, leaving very little room for imagination. In addition, although this book was written in English, the story felt as though it had a kind of accent that made it feel a bit off. The author admittedly, from what I am guessing, is not a native speaker. However, the fantasy world very much felt like a typical medieval Western setting, and so when the style didn’t conform for any good reason, it created a bit of a disconnect.
There’s Another Book
I didn’t abandon the book, even though I was very much tempted to quit after the first three chapters, and things do improve a bit (or I just got used to the writing). In addition to the action, we get to learn some more about the world’s politics, and we learn tiny bits and pieces of ancient and recent history. I think around 75% of the way through the story, I managed to finally become really interested in what was going on. Unfortunately the book ended on a cliffhanger.
There is a second shorter volume that wraps things up. If I weren’t in the middle of Sefer HaOmer, I would probably have read it just to see how it all ends. However, I didn’t have the bandwidth to go on sidequests, and the first book was really not that great so although curious I decided to give the second volume a temporary pass. I recommend you do the same, and not start these two novels.
The Omer today is eternity in courage. Eternity is appropriate for a story that traces its roots to before the creation of the world. Courage is required to participate in the events that will potentially end it. This is fate in a nutshell. A destiny that is placed on you before you are born. Whether you grudgingly submit or defiantly rebel, you will always need a lot of courage to pursue your chosen path until its very end. And yes, you will be tempted to quit (because we’re always tempted). Don’t. There is always a way to make things work.
About The Author
M. G. Darwish is an award nominated author who writes dark, twisted and action-packed fiction. He tries his best not to based his characters on anyone he knows in real life to avoid that extra weird conversation about how they were brutalized and killed in the book. Oh and he’s terrified of a penguin uprising more than ghosts and demons.