Book Review: Wings of Twilight
Welcome to the Word of Calliome. Wings of Twilight is the first of several novels that will take you into a land full of everything that you would expect in a fantasy world—exotic locations, myth, magic, monsters and heroes—but not everything is as it seems. Not all heroes are as good as they appaer, and not all monsters are evil, and every now and then the world that all these beings live in has something to say about how things go. For hundreds of years, the Twilight Dungeon was the stuff of myths and legends, the holy grail of dungeons, attracting heroes and wannabes in search of fame and fortune. Lord Strom Lightbringer is yet another one of those glory seekers, and he and his companions will purge the Twilight Dungeon of evil and, like all good heroes, claim the treasures within. All this is good and dandy, but Sarvesh, the leaders of the dungeon’s monstrous inhabitants, wants to protect the place that he calls home.
With Wings of Twilight, Hans Cummings not only introduces us into a new and rich fantasy world, but he gives us a literary study in forced perspective. The perspective is shifted from the traditional hero’s perspective to the “bad guys’” point of view. Essentially this is a reverse dungeon crawl. The focus of this book is on the denizens of the dungeon, not the invaders from the surface. This has been done before, but Cummings really did it well. As expected, you end up caring about the monsters that you normally wade through in video games and tabletop roleplaying games. The society that Cummings built for these “monsters” is refreshing. They still have their problems and infighting, but they live their day-to-day lives and do what they have to do to protect their homes.
I didn’t feel like Cummings was trying to make a huge social statement about good, evil, or even utopian societies; I think he set out to write a great fantasy novel with a twist, and he did. Other than the reverse dungeon crawl thing, this book follows several formulas. Heck, even the ending is just what you’d expect. Wings of Twilight is a book where the journey is as important as the destination. While a majority of the journey takes place in the Twilight Dungeon, there is so much to learn and explore there that if feels as large as the world above it.
Cummings did a wonderful job creating characters that feel real, even if one of them is basically a sentient magical garbage disposal. I was impressed with the way necromancy was dealt with in this book, too. I don’t know if I would completely call the dungeon’s resident raiser of the dead a white necromancer, but he was awfully close. In this book, the beings who are raised volunteer to be raised, and it is a high honor. I mean, sure, they are still undead and, no matter how noble the cause, necromancers are just creepy, but it was cool to see yet another fresh perspective.
This book was the proper introduction to what I hope will be a story-filled world. Cummings knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to take some risks as a writer. The surprises in this book are almost charming. There are so many little storyline and character knick-knacks that made me smile or pause to think. This book does handle some tough subjects like what is evil and the topic of prejudice, but those questions are not the focus of this book. This book is a unique trip on the other side of the gamemaster’s screen, where we are exposed to the secret lives of those critters we normally hack and slash our way through.