[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Shadow Fox Publishing, LLC
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]

When the world is ripped apart, right or wrong merely becomes a point of perspective. L. Anna Lenz’s opening novel The Opree Legacy introduces an entirely new world containing a race of people plagued by meddlesome gods, castes at war with one another and political upheaval as the world transitions from old to new. The people of Opree struggle to adapt to a time after the invasion of their lands when the merciless enemy nearly exterminated humanity. As the next generation of people come in to power, those that weren’t born in the time before the invasion have an appalling lack of respect for the threat that could still be at their doorstep.

In the chilling first few pages of the The Opree Legacy, the Harker family is lovingly introduced and then systematically destroyed by an enemy known only as the Navat. Only one survives: Nathaniel. As a young man, Nathaniel is introspective, obedient and determined to do his best when he graduates from the only home he knows into an unknown future. Counter to Nathaniel’s coming of age narrative is the story of Colonel Cyrus Mason who is a decorated war hero, now struggling to hold on to his long held position as his country slowly forgets his sacrifice. And there is Lilly, a spoiled young woman from the fertile river lands who is forced from her home into poverty. She is soon swept up in a revolution that she isn’t even sure she believes in. Each character that is introduced is definitive of a group of citizens struggling to find a place in this new society.

“The prince looked at his friend, with his punctured lung, broken arm, concussion. He had fought a bear with sticks and paint rounds. Together, they had nearly burned down six square miles of forest, and destroyed millions of dollars of military equipment. ‘I think it’s a bad idea to be adversaries, my friend.'”

Lenz’ writing does not shy away from the macabre. While scenes are rendered in brilliant detail, the time and setting of the land seem to be a bit vague. As an opening novel to an epic, naturally the first third of the book must set the scene and rules of the world. A difficult task when the action of the story travels at the speed of a runaway streetcar. Still, it would have been nice if the land could have some general magical/biblical set up such as geography in relation to other worlds or general scientific/technological advancement. Each chapter is begun with a quote from the holy book of the Opree’an people, but doesn’t reveal enough of the mythology for it not to be a shock the first time an actual god appears.

By far the strength of this novel comes from the strong voices of the characters. Each one is not only believable but also sympathetic, even when they share an opposing viewpoint with another character. In one scenario a young prince is seen nobly promoting the development of a vaccine that will prevent a sickness devastating the poor. In the very next moment, an outcast falls into a pit of bodies that have been unwilling guinea pigs in the development of the vaccine. While the ending is much more satisfying a conclusion than in an R.R. Martin novel, this ensemble is certainly not done yet. This unique, complex work should be devoured by fans of dystopian and science fiction.

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