The Anomalous Archive, Part V: 'Ley of the Minstrel' by G.L. Francis.

 [This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on April 5, 2010.]

"Ley of the Minstrel," 2nd in Issue 2 of The Cross and the Cosmos

With "Ley of the Minstrel" by G.L. Francis, we at last venture into the world of Dias-Domhan, one of the Twin Universes that were invented for The Cross and the Cosmos. There could not have been a better story to break the path to this uncharted realm for us!

A lovely example of high fantasy, "The Ley of the Minstrel" paints a romantic artwork from the material given on the website of The Cross and the Cosmos. Most significantly, G.L. Francis developed culture and customs for the enigmatic elves, which are barely mentioned in passing on the webpage. Even some work on the elvish languages or dialects is presented. Also, an interesting scenario of elven-human relations is suggested, with intermarriage between the races seemingly fairly common despite widespread misunderstanding and hatred on the part of other humans. Perhaps the best contribution of this short story to the fantasy setting of Dias-Domhan is a specific magic system, which is well-defined, appropriate to the theme, and (as far as I know) original.

The immediate context of the story is that of a particular voyage on the sea. Despite the deep worldbuilding of the setting and the serious meaning of the story, there are a couple moments when the plot takes on the excitement of a swashbuckling pirate tale. The plot is fairly broad for a short story, and it somehow leaves the reader feeling as if he has witnessed a long, developing adventure. This exciting tale is seen first-person, through the eyes of a dynamic protagonist. Not a particularly large amount of time is spent in the development of the supporting characters, but they are interesting and sympathetic anyways.

Within this adventurous plotline is hidden the mysteries of Redemption and of Christian self-sacrifice. The easily-discovered symbolism is powerful. The Christian principles are not only symbols; in the fantasy context, the same principles are valued by at least one of the characters. Apparently, the elves worship God, whom they call Dé-Fär. The elvish culture seems to have elements that could be drawn from paganism (perhaps Celtic traditions). I've been wondering if, in Dias-Domhan, at one point the elves were converted to the worship of God from animistic polytheism, retaining their former culture but giving it significance in light of their new understanding of God. I wonder if evil sects of elves are still pagan.

There is so much depth here that will probably never be explored, unless some other writers are brave enough to venture beyond the edge of the map. It would be really awesome to see authors building on each others' contributions to the Twin Universes! I hope to hear more epic tales out of Dias-Domhan, and also from the Triangle. And I look forward to reading more of G.L. Francis's first-class work.

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