No one could claim that Fate of Thorik is the most original fantasy adventure that ever was penned, but if you’ve got an itch that can only be scratched by an action-packed quest in a fully absorbing fantasy world, this first entry in Anthony G. Wedgeworth’s Altered Creatures series will hit the spot.
“I’ve seen you looking over your maps and notes. You want an adventure out of this valley. Finding me gives you that opportunity. It is fate.”
As his appendices and maps demonstrate, the author has crafted an exquisitely detailed realm in Terra Australis, complete with a rich history and a colourful creature palette that’s dipped into liberally in this inaugural adventure. There’s certainly no danger of him running out of source material for many trilogies to come.
All this world-building can be frustratingly good on occasion, since the necessity of zooming in on a single time, place and set of characters to tell the story means that some of the most intriguing aspects can only be hinted at. It’s the Altered Creatures (or Unday if we’re being politically correct) that really steal the show, and I won’t spoil those surprises here. I can’t be alone in my infatuation – the author named the series in their honour, after all – and it’s the prospect of paying more visits to the bestiary that might persuade me to return to Terra Australis again, more than the continuing adventures of Thorik Dain and his ragtag band.
If the story itself makes less of an impression, it’s only because we’ve seen so much of it before. From the distinctly Hobbity Polenums to the conveniently-named antagonist Darkmere and familiar beats of betrayal and sacrifice being hit right on cue, even its target young adult readership may find the plot overly simplistic at times.
By bulking out the cast with one-dimensional stock characters, Wedgeworth also doesn’t do any favours for the fantasy genre’s reputation for poor characterisation. Even our hero Thorik is disappointingly free from flaws until he tarnishes his sparkling white character with a shade of grey during the climax, which spells hope for his future adventures being more unpredictable.
But what Fate of Thorik lacks in character development it more than makes up for in page-turning action, as nearly every chapter presents new thrills in the form of ambushing armies and wildlife, trials of endurance, beast tournaments and magic duels before we get to the final showdown. Since he self-published this first book in 2008, the author has expanded the Altered Creatures range considerably with more than 10 books aimed at adults, young adults and pre-teens, but this is where it all began.