The Chronicles of Illumarilgarycaplancv
The Advent of Darkness
by Gary Caplan & Basil B. Varian

ISBN13: 978-1-4257-3439-8 (Trade Paperback)
ISBN13: 978-1-4257-3440-4 (Hardback)
377 pages
Pub. Date: Feb. 2007
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation

For Dungeons and Dragons’ enthusiasts who enjoy whipping up epic fantasies full of existential characters with mind boggling powers, this book is for you.  But be prepared to exercise your imagination as never before; don a cape and sword if need be as the team of Gary Caplan and Basil B. Varian take you on a journey into their extraordinary World of Illumaril.
The story begins with John Gideon, a tall man with surfer good looks, taking an evening drive on a lonely Pennsylvania country road.  Loosely gripping the wheel, John recalls his years serving as an Army Intelligence Officer followed by years of study, graduating from college with honors.  Just as a sigh of boredom escapes his lips, a flash of lightning pierces the sky pulling his attention to the road ahead where he spots a bearded stranger cloaked in red standing motionless.  Slamming the brakes, John opens his window to order the stranger out of the way.  Before he can get a word out, the tall man calls him by name and utters a dire warning.  Within seconds the stranger disappears and three huge beasts with burning red eyes come charging around the bend, howling and screaming directly toward John.  Leaping back into his car, John races ahead until the beasts are specks in his rear-view mirror.  Thinking he has escaped the nightmare, he follows the road into a dark tunnel.  Instead of a paved road greeting him at the tunnel’s exit, however, there are only dirt and grass.  And the night sky has mysteriously turned to daylight.

John finds himself thrust into a world far different from that of his own.  A world in which wizards and elves abound and enchanted spells, good or evil, are cast about with the regularity of rising suns and passing moons.  But as strange as this new world seems, John soon learns that it is the land of his ancestors, and moreover, that John himself is of royal lineage.  Secretly placed on Earth as a young child for safety during a dark period in his world’s history, John has been brought back to help his people fight the scourge of a new dark force determined to spread evil throughout the land.

The Chronicles of Illumaril is an interesting story full of imaginative characters with special powers and colorful landscapes.  However, there are so many characters with so many special powers; it can be a challenge to keep track of them all or to understand their purpose.  In addition, the story seemed to get caught up in minutia detail at times that had little significance to strengthening its plot.  The amount of effort Gary Caplan (the primary author) puts into writing this novel is evident; particularly in the final pages where he provides an imaginary journal written by Gideon about his travels.  In the journal is a listing of nobility ranks by title.  This list is nice, but would have been more useful in the earlier pages where it could have helped the reader figure out the various rank structures mentioned throughout the story.

Chronicles of Illumaril is a good first stab at writing a full-length novel.  With more work and writing experience, Gary Caplan (the primary author) can look forward to many more epic ventures into the fantasy genre.– Jeff Ovall, Y-30 Staff