He comes from the west and arises in the east,
Tall and strong, fierce as a storm upon the plain.
He ascends the height to put his hand among the stars
And wield the sword of heaven.
Master of wolves, friend of horses,
He is a Prince of men and a walking flame
- Kelven's Riddle from Kelven's Riddle by Daniel Hylton
Daniel Hylton, my dad, is experiencing a problem with a certain plot thread in Book 4 of Kelven's Riddle, a fantasy tale of Aram, a slave thrown into extraordinary circumstances when he bucks his lowly existence. The book will be delayed a few weeks perhaps, and though I can't help but understand, I also can't help but be disappointed. I've been waiting for some time now to put my life on hold, to sit like a slob in the recliner with a scone flaking and a cup of cocoa dripping on my pjs, to shout at my kids to give me a break so I can read, and truly just read, for the first time in months.
Somehow when it's Dad's book I don't feel the guilt of letting the house become a den of disorder, of letting the kids amuse themselves, of telling my husband it's frozen nuggets and canned beans for dinner - again. After all, though I may be enjoying myself, I'm also responsible for giving Dad my opinion after I read that last page of the manuscript.
But, well, why wait this time? Why wait to give him my opinion until I have that long-looked-for Book 4 in my hands? I say this with all due respect to the author and the father; I have my expectations for this story, for these characters. So, while I wait for the first 60,000 or so words to reach me by mail, I'm going to make my hopes for this tale's characters known, and here I go:
The Astra (or Guardians of the Call of Kelven) - These incredible beings were barely palpable in Book 3. Not once did they come to Aram's aid; they did not even defend Aram when he faced the beast in the Lost, and he and several others were in real danger of being butchered for a meal. Why were the Guardians silent? Granted, Book 3 is essentially about exploration and the aggrandizement of Aram's armies, but Aram was threatened several times, and the Guardians were a no show.
These mysterious and strangely beautiful beings so fascinate me that I really, really don't want to spend Book 4 without them, though I will if I have to. The exchange that happens between them and Ferros, a god, at the end of Book 1 and then especially that which occurs with Aram at the end of Book 2 both blew me away. The Astra are obviously more powerful than anyone we've yet seen. Bring back the Astra! I want to know they're at Aram's side waging war. It'd be great if I could hear them speak again, too.
The Lashers - flat-eyed monsters with horns curved forward over their faces toward those they mean to kill. When Aram finally learned how to annihilate them with Thaniel's help, I almost felt bad about it, because I found them immediately interesting when they showed up in Aram's village. They're a mash-up of species, an experiment born of human mothers. Perhaps there is something better for them if Manon, god of mankind, can be destroyed. Regardless, I've always found them compelling, evil or not - even the way they look sparks imagination. I see them clearly. I'd like to know more of their history and their future.
Aram - I feel I am Aram when I read the books, very strange I guess considering I'm a woman and Aram is a man. But because I feel I'm at least walking by his side, I don't think of him as being eligible to be my favorite character. Someone on Goodreads lauded him, however, as one of the best components of the book (well, one would hope so for the main character) - fierce yet humble, a warrior yet compassionate - something like that.
Aram really isn't a muddy character like those often popular now. He makes mistakes; he has a bad temper, but he is good and working toward the good. At first all his effort is only for his own freedom, then to restore the right order to the world, and finally because he loves Ka'en. Unfortunately I feel he has a long, sad road ahead of him, and in Book 4 I want a clue about how the hell he's going to use that unusual sword he gained to destroy Manon. It wouldn't be so bad if he and Manon came truly face to face at last...well, actually - it might.
Thaniel of the horses - Thaniel, my Thaniel. I love Thaniel, and I would find it hard to say exactly why. He becomes extremely loyal to Aram after their shaky start. They are brothers in war. Thaniel is reticent by nature, but he gives council to and is open with Aram. At the end of Book 2, he needs to remain by Aram's side even in the most dire conditions and even when he is told to abandon the situation, and we understand the depth of his commitment when he finally obeys orders.
For Thaniel, I want life, because I love this character, but I do wonder what Thaniel can become when all the war is done. To me he is a tragic figure. This is mostly do to his personality and what I feel he is willing to do for Aram's sake. It is very hard to imagine what Thaniel can be without the strife and risk of bloodshed in battle. The idea of it is somewhat reminiscent of Frodo after the ring is destroyed, though Thaniel is more imposing than a hobbit. Perhaps my dad has an extraordinary place for Thaniel reserved at the end of it all. Perhaps he'll be a family man (or horse). Anyway, his loss at any moment in the tale would break my heart, but tragedy feels inevitable to some extent.
Ferros - Ferros is as mercurial as one would expect a god over the engines of the world to be. What I want from Ferros is simple: I want him to keep the promise he made to Aram. Technically, he already kept it when Aram discovered the fellring and dragon's egg in the cave, but I want it kept in real crisis and at Aram's demand, if you will.
The Laish (or dragons) - Well, I just hope they'll be as schizophrenic and strange as they were in Book 3, and though it has already been (the evidence in ruined ships near Seneca, Book 3) and would be disastrous, I want to see what they can unleash when provoked. I feel sure they're about to be provoked.
Marcus of Elam - I just want him to stick it to his SOB Uncle Ram. Ram seems to believe that selling poor men's daughters into a vile slavery is for the good of Elam, a wealthy city, and definitely for his own. Marcus is honorable, and his uncle wants him dead. I have a feeling Marcus will bring Elam back into the light, join Aram's forces after some contention, and the uncle will be dead. I hope I'm right.
Borlus the Bear - Okay, I have no illusions here. I know Borlus was always truly a minor character, but I want him to have an impact for the good. Honestly, any way that Dad finds to use him in Aram's campaign against Manon will surprise.
Kelven - If Kelven can rise above his bitterness and do something grand, it'll be pleasing. He seems so mired in the realization of what he gave up (and for little) that effective help for Aram seems iffy. My dad meant for Kelven to be a disappointment in Book 2, surprising in his rancor and detachment from hope, and Dad succeeded.
There are many more hopes I have for Kelven's Riddle and its characters - Joktan, Ka'en, Alvern - but rather than writing them, I'd prefer to be reading Book 4 and 5 to see if my wishes for the story are valid or not. Order the first three installments on Kindle (or traditional paperback if you're like me) and anticipate Book 4 with me. Dad has promised it will be out this spring despite the small delay. Until then, I am reading his short story based on Bram Stoker's Dracula at The View From The Woods . It's a good anecdote to the current glorification of vampires in fiction and television, back to the original monstrous tale.