The Gates of Golorath (Chaos of Souls #1), by R.M. Garino

            The Gates of Golorath is the first part of an epic fantasy adventure.  Author R.M. Garino has created a complex world that exists somewhere between the realm of humans and the realms of heaven and hell.  Here, the Elc’atar warriors, guardians of the Gate, are charged with keeping the hoards of monsters from the netherworld from invading the world of humans.  This world is populated by the descendants of fallen angels, who possess a variety of magical powers and physical abilities that aid them in their appointed obligations.  This is a world filled with different races, families, clans, and politics, and this is just the first installment of a multi-part epic.

            The text here is very well-written, with lush descriptions and flowing prose that carries the reader away into this fantasy world.  The names, relationships, motivations, and adventures of all the characters are sometimes difficult to keep straight, but there is no shortage of gripping action, romance, and detailed description.

            The main story follows Arielle, a fledgling warrior who is going through the equivalent of Elc’atar boot camp for a year before being deemed worthy of taking her place as a guardian.  She is drawn to a male named Angus, whose lineage is from a different “house” but the two of them are drawn together like Romeo and Juliet and are truly star-crossed lovers.  There are many, many other characters, all of whom have hard-to-pronounce names, with their own lineages and back-stories, but Arielle and Angus are the focus, and they have deep histories and are developed in this book in great detail and are compelling and interesting characters.

            If you are a fan of large-scale fantasy adventure, you will find this book entertaining.  But be warned, it is quite long (600 pages) and the plot moves forward very slowly as we experience training camp with Arielle and Angus and learn about the over-arching plot only in very small bits along the way.  Even at the end of book #1, it’s not really clear what the real plot is, who the real villains are, or what lies ahead.  One of the major characters has just embarked on a dangerous assignment, which will no doubt be some of the story in book #2, but this epic is far, far from being over.  This is not a quick beach read, and once engaged in the story, be ready for a very long road ahead.  To make a comparison to the gold standard of fantasy adventure epics, The Lord of the Rings, what is missing here is a clear understanding of the nature of the quest and what the ultimate conflict is.  The author has established the world, but has not fully explained why we should care or what the central goal is.  It’s not really fair to expect Tolkien quality, of course, and perhaps the next book in the series will explain more, but for now the prospective reader should have a clear understanding that the road you are starting down is very interesting, but we have no real idea how long the hike is going to be and where we’re ultimately going.  If you just want to dip your metaphorical toe into this genre, this book may not be your best option.

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