Since Daniel Swensen had made a point of asking me what I thought of his debut fantasy Orison after my previous mention here, I figured some rereading was in order. I tore through it this weekend, in between being summoned to help other Dark Souls II players achieve victory through jolly cooperation. I didn’t want to go back to working on Starbreaker stuff right after reading Words of Radiance.
Orison is a short, fast-paced novel. At it’s core, it’s a crime caper. There’s a MacGuffin, the titular orison, that the dragon Penumbra has put into play for reasons the novel eventually reveals. She offers it to Ashen One-Howl, a Warborn retainer to the Queen of Calushain, who quite sensibly refuses.
His sensible refusal turns out to be a mistake. Others get their hands on it, and scheme to place Wrynn and Dunnac, a wizard-turned-gambler and a swordsman exiled by different countries, in a position which forces them to obtain the orison and transport it.
The last piece of the puzzle lies in Story, a young burglar who manages to get her hands on the orison during a fight between Wrynn and Dunnac against Ashen One-Howl. The stakes rapidly escalate from here with Penumbra and an opposing dragon stirring the pot, leading to an explosive climax and a denouement that does a solid job of wrapping up the novel and leaving room for sequels despite its relative brevity.
I enjoyed Orison, and wouldn’t mind seeing more in the Lotus Throne setting. I found Swenson’s choice of “Penumbra” as a name for the dragon who set the novel’s events in motion interesting. A penumbra is a shadow cast by an object that partially occludes a light source, such as during a partial solar eclipse. I wonder if there’s some significance there, or if Swensen chose that name for other reasons.