Chronicles of Oerpia: The Fellowship and the Dark Lord
by Henri T. De Souza
Westwood Books Publishing

"The reports indicated the presence of enormous spiders and larger than life snakes that crawled on the southern road leading to Lystra."

The Realm of Oerpia is a plane of mortals caught in the center of a conflict between the heavenly Aeternians and the fallen rezguls of Fernia. An Aeternian messenger appears to a trader named Bavay and informs him that his children, Azwan and Keilah, will be called to support the Aeternians from Oerpia, putting their lives at risk. After relaying the message to his family, an Aeternian named Femlir visits the two children and entrusts them with their duty. Immediately, magical occurrences seem to follow them as long as they stay focused on their quest and maintain their faith in the power of Aeternia and its ruler, King Eliashib.

Departing swiftly from their hometown with almost no time to prepare, Azwan and Keilah escape the curious greed of King Xantar (the Dark Lord) and begin their long journey. Once the stakes are revealed to Keilah and Azwan, they are required to assemble a fellowship of 12 like-spirited individuals who can perform a ritual that will keep Oerpia safe for thousands of years to come. Nipping at their heels, however, are the machinations of the devious residents of Fernia as well as the very corporeal threat of the scheming King Xantar. Journeying throughout the land, the two youths must combine their wits and their faith in order to overcome very real dangers lurking around every corner. With Aeternian armor and tools at their disposal, Keilah and Azwan are able to fight back against those that would try to stop them when the situation calls for it but must not be delayed or distracted from their quest.

Steeped in a creation myth that reflects our real-world notions of heaven, hell, and Earth, this young adult fantasy novel offers up plenty of action and adventure between scenes of reflection on the nature of faith. Young protagonists on a long journey to find allies and even the use of the word “fellowship” will create an instant connection for many readers to Tolkien, and this is not an inaccurate association whatsoever. As is the case in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, Azwan and Keilah have a somewhat direct path to their goals but often encounter both supporters and enemies who remain largely hidden by natural senses alone. Despite these similarities, the author’s tale is unique. The mythology and lore of Oerpia are brilliantly described and captivating to the imagination, hooking the reader early as the action begins to accelerate.

One of the author’s greatest strengths is his ability to capture the details of each location in a way that feels complete to the reader. Even places located in Aeternia and Fernia, which are by definition otherworldly, come through in a direct, well-defined manner that forms clearly in one’s mind. The characters then pop and thrive in those scenes, particularly the demonic rezguls, who speak in their own tongue (translated in text for the reader as well as through a short guide in the back of the book) and slither and slink their way into every conflict. Adventurous and thought-provoking, Oerpia will call to readers looking for an epic fantasy in which to lose themselves. As this story comes to a close, Azwan and Keilah’s adventures surely continue, and the audience will certainly want to follow along with them.

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