“Whatever most captures your mind controls your life.” – Kare Anderson

In author Gary Caplan’s book ‘The Return of the Ancient Ones’ we return back to the land of Illúmaril. It has become an area that resembles an extended battleground with various forces and foes battling each other to reign supreme. It’s also a land that is awaiting its destined leader Gideon to employ the Sword of Order and vanquish the dark forces known as Thatos and his army. Gideon and his gang get unexpected help from an enemy group called the Darkspawn after they are betrayed by Thatos. An under threat Illúmaril’s future rests on the skills of one man.

The Return of the Ancient Ones (hereafter referred to as TROTAO) is a complex story involving multiple important heroic characters and numerous soldiers fighting on the side of both good and evil. Connoisseurs of topical popular culture will immediately make a connection between the storyline of TROTAO and that of Star Wars. But here’s where it one-ups the latter; this thought itself might be blasphemous to some, but if someone had wondered what would happen if full-on magic were introduced to the Star Wars empire – TROTAO would be the answer. The narrative introduces telepathy, spell-weaving, skyships, powerful crystals, swords, beasts & demons to an action packed story that’s full of combat and the revelation of the purpose behind the main hero’s life.

Staying true to the genre, the narrative is highly descriptive and builds up the land of Illúmaril and its various inhabitants vividly in your mind. In fact Mr. Caplan must be appreciated for utilizing his imagination to the hilt and coming up with such diverse characters and then arming them with unique powers and accompaniments like special swords and amulets. You also get to experience the story from different perspectives as the author tells the story from multiple characters’ point of view.

The novel gives equal weightage to both characters and story. The character of Gideon coming to grips with his destiny and forming an alliance to take on a much powerful enemy is explored nicely. And the plot moves along steadily leading to a big and expected clash at the end where the identity of the victor won’t leave anyone surprised. The characters, be it Draeborn, Almaren, Gil, Bernord and Gideon’s other friends grow and develop as the plot moves along. These characters appear honest because they aren’t afraid to portray fear & doubt. And it’s their honor, courage and camaraderie that make them heroic.

There’s not a lot here that you could underscore as bad, especially if you’re into this genre. But for some, the sheer number of names of geographical locations, Knights, Lords and demons might be overwhelming; as might the battle scenes that run the risk of being slightly repetitive.

In the end, the action in TROTAO keeps the story moving forward at a consistent pace and provides for an engrossing read. The novel has won the Indie excellence award for fantasy.

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