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Reviewed by Matt Lebois for Readers' Favorite
Opon-Hul introduces a fantasy world created by author Rafael Lopez in the first of a series of short stories featuring a legendary archer. In the land of Dathzon, humanity survives only in the area of The Mountain, with a scattering of castles and villages about its base. Only the magic of The Staff of Hope holds the surrounding evil at bay. The Dark Dirt produces monsters that would destroy what light and life remain. One day, a once-unimaginable creature appears to rob the people of the protection of The Staff. This triggers a race to fulfill a prophecy and call on the might of Lastenberg, hero of legend, last hope of Dathzon, before humanity is overrun by the forces of darkness.
This original, Lord of the Rings-inspired setting will be instantly familiar to fantasy fans. Rafael Lopez’s poetry background comes through in the prose and dialogue. The language is archaic and florid, which gives the writing the feel of legend, while sometimes dipping slightly into the realm of purple prose. It doesn’t feel so much like fantasy adventure as it does mythic storytelling. This is most striking with the appearance of Lastenberg, a seemingly divine warrior whose presence signifies change in the world. The story’s brevity suits the type of storytelling, a tale of old whose conclusion is foregone, but I would have enjoyed a longer adventure, especially in the resolution of the main conflict. I was intrigued by Opon-Hul’s finish, which points to a series of tales spanning history, creating further legends for new eras.