Book Series Review: The Domain

Hello again! It’s been so long, and I’ve missed writing terribly. Tonight I’m going to talk about The Domain books, by Richard Capwell.

I’ve written before about Richard Capwell’s Witches Bureau of Investigation books, which I enjoyed quite a bit. So when I was perusing free ebooks on Amazon and saw one by the same author, I quickly snagged it. Then I had to go buy book one, as it was book four in the Domain series that had been temporarily marked down to nothing.

Money well spent. I finished the fourth book last night, and now have to wait for the next one.

The Domain is a fantasy series that starts like many others, with people from our familiar world getting yanked into a strange, alien place. In fact it starts out feeling a little cliche, which I suspect the author did on purpose because it starts getting weird pretty fast. It feels to me like a far more “grown-up” story than the WBI, but should be suitable for teenagers or preteens. 

The story has one of the most intricate plots I’ve ever seen. The fifth and final book is forthcoming, and I hope Richard Capwell is kind enough to provide a recap, because I’m having a lot of trouble keeping everything straight. I’m half-tempted to start the series over and take notes, to be honest. But I have so many other books to read… Anyway there are about a hundred characters whose names are worth remembering, and enough legends and portents to drive a genre-savvy reader mad.

It’s an ensemble cast, but if there’s one single protagonist it’s 5 foot, 2 inch Mark, a thief and magician who goes from scraping by on the streets of L.A. to being a figure of legend in the Domain. Exactly which figure of legend remains to be seen. Early on it seems so obvious, you know there’s a legendary magician (called zhenna in the Domain, where magic is known as zhen) called Difmacs who was short and had similar injuries to Mark’s and generally seemed a lot like him, and you assume that Mark will be sent back in time to become Difmacs.

And Richard Capwell laughs at you, because it soon turns out that there are so many short, one-eyed zhenna in Dominion folklore that you’d think they’d start lumping them all together to make the stories easier to tell. By the second book Difmacs was the only one that I felt reasonably sure couldn’t be Mark.

This story contains time-travel, which is foreshadowed in the very beginning and pretty obvious early on, though the exact nature remains hidden for some time, and I’m still not clear about it. The timeline is… really screwed up. The author must have some impressive notes tracking when everything happens relative to everything else… unless even he’s lost track! By the end of the fourth book the most adept time-travelers are no longer sure when they are half the time, and can only relate it in vague terms relative to certain events. It would be an adventure to try to plot out Mark’s timeline, I’m sure of that.

If I ever find myself re-reading the series, I’m going to try to make a rough timeline.

The characters are mostly well-developed and interesting, though some of the tertiary ones feel a little flat. That’s easy to forgive, though, because there really are a lot of them. The way zhen works feels inconsistent to me, but then we still don’t really know what makes someone a zhenna, despite the characters’ best guesses. The morality is sometimes a little flat, but not uncommonly so for a book that isn’t specifically about exploring such things. The world mostly feels more believable than your average fantasy setting, probably because the author used up his own suspension of disbelief with the wall and had to make the cultures feel more real to compensate.

Oh, did I mention the wall? There’s a giant wall separating the world into the Domain (“good”) and Evdur (“evil”). The origin of the wall is still a mystery, as is the exact nature of the Evdur that makes it so dark and evil. Also it occurs to me that people who get stranded in the Domain have a peculiar tendency to be mistaken for gods, or reach apotheosis after they leave.

I’m also puzzled by the fact that only five books are planned, because first of all it seems unlikely that all those plot threads can be resolved in one more book, and second because the number 7 is so important to the series. But I suppose we didn’t really need another doorstopper series. Come to think of it, despite the nursery rhyme/prophecy about “seven points in time”, there are at least a few more points of time travel. I guess I’ll have to wait & read to see what’s up with that. Maybe only the “deep” ones matter? I’m certainly going to get the next book, if only to see how this crazy tangle of plot threads turns out!

The bottom line is that if you like strange worlds, lots of characters, complex plots and sci-fi/fantasy adventure, you’ll probably like this series. The first book is available for Kindle for only $0.99, at least as of this writing.

Richard Capwell is now an author I watch for, I’ve read six of his nine published works and enjoyed them immensely. I suppose I should try reading his Oz books sometime.

Until next time, good night my lovelies.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on August 24, 2013, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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