What if the medieval Europe of traditional fantasy took place in the American West? Out of Exile explores the combination of the two in an exciting story in a refreshingly different setting. We have the classic western story of a young man, Revan, whose home is attacked and his mother kidnapped, who sets out on a journey to rescue her, set in the high mountains, rugged canyons, and broad plains of the American West, along with the buffalo hunts and horse culture of the indigenous people, but with such familiar epic fantasy elements as bards, taverns, kings, knights in armor, a hint of magic, and mysterious beings who aren't quite human. And leprechauns. Okay, maybe leprechauns aren't quite standard fantasy fare, but they're a lot of fun. And pretty fierce warriors, too.
There's a lot of well-thought-out worldbuilding and history woven through the story. The story of the downfall of Revan's family and the wars that led to the present situation is told in short sections at the beginnings of several of the chapters, paced in such a way as to shed light on what's happening in the present part of the story and to build suspense towards revealing the identity of the mysterious and ominous White Knight. The story starts out simple but builds in richness and complexity, adding in a mysterious cavern, a woman who is dead but you get the feeling her story isn't over, a member of the band of inhuman beings who kidnapped Revan's mother who is in turn captured by Revan and his companions, a band of rebels, a stalemate that can only end in war, and the looming White Knight. There were a few minor issues in the narrative, such as pacing and clarity of action, and I would have liked a little more depth in the character development - though the characters are very engaging - and a somewhat stronger role for the numerous female characters in the story. I did like it that Revan's mother, whose background isn't explained much but who comes from what appears to be a female warrior culture (she's a Valkyrie), also embraces and cherishes her role as wife (though she's widowed now) and mother. Contrary to how they're often protrayed, kick-butt female characters can also embrace more traditional feminine characteristics, and I think this needs to be shown more often.
On the whole, I found Out of Exile to be an enjoyable, gripping story in a setting that's a refreshing change from the standard Fantasyland.
For more about medieval westerns, read Derek's guest post here.