By Deston Munden
Reviewed by Ernest Russell
I always enjoy a good fantasy and an author who can twist tropes just enough to make the story interesting. The main character in Tavern, Xelnath of the Gnarled Root Clan, or Xel, is such a relatable character, full of flaws and self-doubt. A stout heart, loyal to his friends, and genuinely wants to protect his adopted home. All of this and he is not above using its secrets to make a living. He faces adversity despite his anxieties and depression while maintaining a positive feel to the story. You will quickly find yourself cheering and rooting for Xel rather than pitying him. In the first chapter, you learn what I mean by how well Deston Munden twists tropes in Tavern.
Xel isn’t the only well developed, every character is fleshed out, and you get to know them. The villain is one of my favorite types, they are the hero of their own story. You can see their point and still ask what made you think this was a good idea?
Tavern is the first of a planned series set in the world of Dargath. The world-building in this first book is impressive. Primarily set in the city of Lladad, a major seaport, you hear and see many of the different inhabitants of Dargath and their cultures. The city is alive in this story as you wander markets, slums, and royal abodes. Fear not, in Tavern, Deston Munden has resisted the urge to be overly detailed. There is enough description to set your imagination flowing while the characters and their dialogue drive the plot.
Role players who cut their gaming teeth on Chainmaile and Dungeons & Dragons while quoting Tolkien will find many characters they have known or played. If this series gains a following, campaign settings for D&D, Pathfinder, or any other fantasy RPG setting would be fun. I know I would play in them. Dargath is already a world where I would vacation and explore. That Tavern by Deston Munden reads like a game probably shouldn’t be a surprise considering his degree in Game Art and Design. Here is a description of the entire party assembled before a battle with the villain.
“Two forest orcs on the wrong side of the world, a tribeswoman assassin, a former dragon pirate turned mercenary, a lady from the Glade’s court, and a brilliant engineer in the shape of a dog. They were as rag-tag as they could get.”
These are my kind of people for an adventure.
The plot is well-paced, without being too fast or bogging itself down. This is a book in which the story is a joy to read. Tavern was edited by Dominion Editorial. I commend Deston Munden for seeking editors, so many independents do not, and sound editing makes a difference. The content editing and continuity are quite good in Tavern. The copy editing came up short. Dominion offers various packages for their service, and I don’t know if a copy edit was included. Any book can miss a couple of things, often minor enough your mind fills in or corrects for it. These don’t tend to pull you out of the story. There are enough words missed, or incorrectly inserted, I was drawn out of the story multiple times. Fortunately, the story is strong enough and compelling enough to pull you back into it.
Tavern by Deston J. Munden is a book I recommend. The story is good. The characters are well rounded and developed, the subplots are well executed, and with all the elements combined, this is a book I can see becoming a favorite.
Thank you for reading,