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The Rise of the Wyrm Lord
by Wayne Thomas Batson

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"...jacks up the action a notch, successfully following up The Door Within. Baston continues to weave classic Bible stories into an intriguing tale, and makes this novel even better than the first..."

When Aidan Thomas learned he was moving away from home and his best friend to live with his eighty-year old ailing grandfather halfway across the country, life turned inside-out. Without Robby, it was back to being un-athletic, unpopular, bullied and pushed around. It was the end of life as he knew it, a new beginning he wanted no part of.

However, Aidan finds the sacred scrolls of Alleble in his grandfather’s basement and embarks upon a journey to The Realm, changing his life forever. A place of ancient magic embroiled in war; on one side stands King Eliam – loving, eternal ruler of Alleble, and Paragor – once trusted herald of King Eliam, now evil ruler of the hellish lands of Paragory. In The Realm, Aidan surmounts challenges revealing his true measure, and when he finally returns home, he burns with the desire to impart King Eliam’s love to everyone.

Things aren’t turning out as great as he’d hoped. While leaving The Realm, he received a disturbing vision, one showing Robby’s mirror-self serving Paragor. Worried about Robby’s eternal destiny, Aidan emails repeatedly for weeks with no answer, and when he finally does get ahold of Robby, he’s distant, guarded, and acting very strange.

Aidan is convinced Robby’s in eternal danger, but what can he do? The rules are clear; King Eliam calls a person to The Realm once a lifetime – there’s no way he can reach Robby’s mirror-self with King Eliam’s love. Enter Antoinette Reed, Aidan’s art classmate at his new school. When he sees her artwork – a rendition of Paragory’s outer gates, and she sees his, The Seven Fountains of Alleble, they realize the amazing truth: they’re both believers of King Eliam, true citizens of Alleble.

Even more astounding; Antoinette receives a ghostly vision of Aidan in warrior dress, and on the back blank pages of her Book of Alleble, the same poem that brought Aidan to The Realm appears. Antoinette has been called to serve King Eliam, but before she goes, Aidan tasks her with a desperate plea – find Robby’s Glimpse, and somehow convince him of the truth of King Eliam’s love, to save Robby’s soul!

When Antoinette arrives in The Realm, she discovers another shocking truth: she is the mirror-self of Lady Gwenne, Aidan’s close comrade and friend! Though heartened by this, as well as warmed by her quick friendship with Aidan’s Glimpse, Aelic, Antoinette encounters a world in turmoil: imposters have spread everywhere, speaking falsehoods and lies, attempting to destroy alliances with Alleble. Even worse, rumors abound that Paragor seeks to unleash an ancient evil power locked away for centuries. The fearful question lingers: is the rumored Wyrm Lord a myth, a fable – or Paragory’s new weapon against Alleble?

The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, the second installment in Wayne Thomas Baston’s The Door Within Trilogy, jacks up the action a notch, successfully following up The Door Within. Baston continues to weave classic Bible stories into an intriguing tale, and makes this novel even better than the first – which is not easy to do – by going “off the Biblical” map with the Wyrm Lord and the Seven Sleepers’ mythology. The second novel is an excellent tale, building on and improving The Realm mythos.

At first I was disappointed Aidan wasn’t returning to The Realm¸ but this offers a fresh new story from Antoinette’s perspective. In The Door Within, the characterization was solid, believable, but in this novel they grow and acquire depth in ways most Christian fantasies don’t today.

The pace picks up, the threat of the Wyrm Lord and the Seven Sleepers looming over every page. One thing to admire: many writers make the mistake of showing off their hidden bad guys too early, and in this novel, we only get tantalizing, shadowy, menacing glimpses of the Wyrm Lord and his minions. This adds suspense; Baston is now playing the “cruel author”, (which we all love so much), by making us wait for the last novel for the pieces to fall into place.

The Rise of the Wyrm Lord ends in a cliffhanger: we are left suspended, in true Empire Strikes Back fashion, without a clue as to what’s going to happen next, as we learn that not only is Antoinette in mortal danger, but so is Aidan – even in the “safer, real world”. All we can do is trust in King Eliam and his grace, and wait until the series concludes in the final novel, The Final Storm.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.