Wait. What? How can you be reviewing “The Dark Age of Enya”? Aren’t you the author? Yes, I am. But I am not going to be reviewing it. What I am going to do is post the two official reviews from 2004. The first is the most infamous, the one I have mentioned many a time on my blog and in my bio—the one that broke my heart, that utterly destroyed my confidence, the Dear John letter to my writing career. Why am I bothering with this? Because the damn thing has been haunting me ever since 2004. By posting it here, by confronting it again, by looking at it openly for what it is, I hope to dispel its power over me.
Looking at it now, you may wonder what all of the fuss was about. You had to understand my mindset at the time. I was already depressed by my failure to generate sales. I did book signings, sought magazine reviews, and tried my darnedest to promote it on related forums where I was often treated like a computer criminal. This review was my last hope. So without further ado, here it is,
Xandr is the last man of his people, the Ilmar. After the destruction of his home by the dark centaur Nessus, Xandr wanders the realms of the world of Enya bearing the legendary sword Emmaxis, knowing only that he has been chosen by the goddess Alashiya to be the Batal of legend who will end the Dark Age.
Following a summons to the city of Hedonia, only to witness the destruction of Hedonia at the hands of the Merquid, Xandr flees with his fellow Ilmar Thelana, the last woman of his people, and the golem Grimosse, to seek out his destiny.
If you’re thinking this sounds predictable, you would be right. The back cover of the book as well as Nick Alimonos’ own commentary on Amazon plays up the fact that he is tired of formula-driven fantasy and wanted to create something meaningful. While there are some good moments here and there, The Dark Age of Enya fails to live up to this ideal.
Aside from the plot that leaves little to the imagination, the characters don’t fare much better. Despite Alimonos’ attempts to provide some background for them (which does manage to be one of the better bits of the story), they never really rise above the archetypes of fantasy, especially Xandr.
Finally, the style could have used a bit more buffing. I hate to criticize too much on this point since it is the author’s first published novel, but let it be said.
The Dark Age of Enya has its share of issues but if you’re looking for something that doesn’t break the mold of “traditional” fantasy, this may be right up your.
It wasn’t just one man’s opinion that hurt me so. His review was read by hundreds of people and my reputation as a writer, something I’ve worked tirelessly at for decades, was forever tarnished. At the very least, he could have thrown me a bone, mentioned a single thing he liked. If I ever get the chance to meet him, or if he stops by my blog, however, I will thank him. Without his review, I may never have found the motivation to improve, to be the best writer I can be, and Ages of Aenya would not exist.
Woohoo! Several “firsts” for Yarns Without Threads. The first book to be featured on the site before publication, the first book reviewed here which has been published by a non-traditional publisher, and the first to be illustrated with the author demonstrating his naturism.
Nick Alímonos has been producing stories since the age of six, entertaining staff and customers in his father’s Greek restaurant. After an arduous literary apprenticeship, he has reached the milestone of publishing his first novel, The Dark Age of Enya. And what a milestone! More than 500 pages of “sword and sorcery”, as hero Xandr pursues his quest and destiny across the world of Enya, through landscapes both benign and hostile.
Sword and sorcery is a very old tradition of story-telling – possibly the oldest. Alímonos is not afraid to acknowledge one of the earliest in this tradition, that ancient Greek, Homer. He also quotes from or nods to a wide range of SF and fantasy authors, from Adams to Zelazny. But this is no derivative imitation or poor copy; Alímonos delivers a tale which is well-constructed and moves along at a fair pace. There are a few rough edges along the way – being your own publisher’s editor, as is the norm for those published by print-on-demand Xlibris, must make it more difficult to pick up minor typos – but these didn’t affect my enjoyment. The main characters are all fully-developed, with faults and foibles as well as skills and accomplishments.
Alímonos has been a naturist for a long time, and, partly because this is important to him, has incorporated naturist concepts and ideals into the book. Xandr is an Ilmarinen, a race whose society is totally naturist: “no more than ornamentally clad when possible, dressed when the climate demanded it”. Other cultures on Enya have different mores. Most are emphatically textile, creating difficulties, tensions and irritations for Xandr and his Ilmar companion, Thelana (right), obliging them to cover up with at least a loincloth for Xandr and tunic for Thelana. A minority of societies accept nudity for young people, or tolerate the customs of strangers, providing the wandering Ilmarinen with welcome relief.
Nudity, particularly female nudity, is not unusual in fantasy writing, and has also been a staple of SF&F illustrations and book covers. Generally, this is used to provide titillation, or to add a sexual overlay to an otherwise a-sexual tale. Alímonos is different in that his Ilmarinen naturism is portrayed as something intrinsic to the character of its people – there is no sensationalism. Yet he does not attempt to ignore the sexual import of nakedness for those shackled by cultural taboos on social nudity. Xandr and Thelana face a range of disapproving attitudes ranging from disapproval to outright condemnation and disgust – you can read some of these cultural clashes in the extracts, along with expositions of what nudity means to the Ilmarinen.
Although many of the stories discussed on Yarns Without Threads refer explicitly to naturism, only two are known to have been written by naturists: The Dark Age of Enya and Glory Road. Interestingly, the latter is also a sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel. While Heinlein’s sorcery is of the “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” variety, Alímonos uses supernatural intervention – sparingly – as an extra ingredient.
Overall, I think The Dark Age of Enya is an accomplished first novel. Its conclusion indicates that there may be further adventuring to come from Xandr – I hope so, and look forward to more naturist-friendly fiction from Alímonos.
You probably won’t find The Dark Age of Enya in your local bookshop, but it is available from Amazon, or direct from Xlibris.
As you can plainly see, Tim Forcer was a lot more enthusiastic about The Dark Age of Enya. In fact, he gave it his highest rating, 3 out of 3. He also quotes several lines that appear toward the end of the book, so I know he read it in its entirety. What was especially encouraging was when Forcer wrote, this is no derivative imitation or poor copy, greatly contradicting the first review.
The problem I had with Forcer’s review, however, was that I never fully trusted it. H&E Magazine is dedicated to promoting the nudist lifestyle and The Dark Age of Enya basically did the same. It would be like FOX NEWS reviewing a book by Bill O’ Reilly; there is bound to be some bias.
Finally, after ten years of transforming myself as a writer, and The Dark Age of Enya into Ages of Aenya, I think I can honestly offer my two cents about Enya:
The Dark Age of Enya is an imaginative read, with no shortage of battle scenes, monsters, and exotic locations. The two main characters, Xandr and Thelana, spend a majority of their time in the buff—and author Nick Alimonos, being a nudist himself—makes no apologies for this. On the plus side, the setting is a considerable departure from the many Tolkien clones published these days; there isn’t an elf, dwarf, zombie or evil wizard to be found. The novel also isn’t afraid to take risks, throwing any idea out there no matter how bizarre. One moment they are flying on giant birds and the next battling a cyborg to stop an alien invasion. Xandr and Thelana’s exploits are very reminiscent of “John Carter of Mars” or “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad” and if that’s your thing, you may find something here to enjoy. Unfortunately, Alimonos’ crams several books worth of story into one, which allows very little room for character development. The numerous plots and subplots spread throughout the novel’s 500 pages are minimally explored, so that conflicts are resolved too quickly without any sense of tension. In this regard, “The Dark Age of Enya” hearkens back to an older, pulp fantasy style from the 30’s and 40’s, like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “The Land that Time Forgot.” Finally, the writing sometimes suffers from overlong and awkward sentences, with enough adjectives to make H.P. Lovecraft jealous. Hopefully, Nick Alimonos will continue to hone his skills and find his own voice as he may someday have something worthwhile to offer the genre. My review: ** out of ****