A single human life has many different paths to choose from. At first, it is mostly easy to follow a path for others help one decide where to go; however, as one grows, so do the number of paths and one is usually left standing quizzically at a crossroads, wondering which road is the right road for them. Will one make him a better or worse person? Will one lead her to fame and glory or to bitterness and despair? Will one offer a longer life or a quicker death? So many possibilities await a single life, yet if one remains standing in one place, struggling to make a decision, how far in life will they truly go?
“You’re following a road that will never take you where you want it to. The world is a broken place, if you can’t find your way. A thousand roads may life before you, but there is only one road that will lead you where you want to go.” (Robin Loc 2370)
Philosophical, alluring, complex, and unique, author John Robin has wowed with his dark fantasy debut, A Thousand Roads. This story focuses on Jak Fuller, an orphan boy who travels from town to town, his only belongings consisting of a wagon full of books and the nightmares of a burning woman. When he arrives in Fort Lasthall and is able to find shelter and work, he dares to dream that he has finally found a place to call home. However, fate has different plans for him for the incredibly powerful deity known as Talamus the Red is readying to enslave the whole of the world to bow to his will. There is one hope of defeating Talamus, but a hope that may lead into even darker times than Talamus would bring. Azzadul, a deity once known as the Lord of Light, became known as the Dark Lord for his obsession to gain immortality lead to more lives lost than salvaged. Azzadul vanished ten years ago, but if his power were to be resurrected by an ancient magic, Talamus could be stopped. This ancient magic has been found and Talamus will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat to his cause: the threat of a wandering orphan boy who unknowingly carries this ancient magic within him.
A Thousand Roads may seem daunting due to its length and darker content, but the story as a whole is rather surprising in the most stunning way possible for Robin has successfully combined a multitude of elements into one enticing story. As a fantasy story, Robin has done an incredible job of world-building. It is always tricky to create a whole new world readers can lose themselves in and Robin has done it, making his world more realistic with fantastical elements periodically making an appearance. As far as writing goes, Robin has superb talent. His attention to detail gives readers the right amount of imagery to see for oneself what his world looks like. He pays attention to the small details most authors skip over and this, in turn, captures the attention of readers and holds it for the duration of the chapter. Come the next chapter, that attention is drawn ever deeper into the story for each chapter, each turn of a page, offers a surprise that will keep the readers guessing. This unpredictability is incredibly rare to find in fantasy nowadays and proves for a very enjoyable read for diehard fans of the genre.
One appealing and surprising aspect of Robin’s novel are the life lessons that can be found scattered throughout the story. For a dark fantasy story, A Thousand Roads can be rather philosophical at times. One such lesson is the quote aforementioned along with the title of the story. How many people in life lie in wait at that crossroads in their life, wondering what road is best for them, yet due to their fear of not moving forward, they remain still for a long period of time? How many people are truly brave enough to dare to take that road that calls out to them the strongest? A lesson following closely to that is discovering who one truly is. One of Robin’s characters mentions how a name is not given, but found, and few ever find their true names which makes them lost as they wander through life (Robin Loc 3239). Another lesson, one of the most important lessons, is facing oneself. “My only enemy is myself. I must keep going… keep going the way I always have. Stop doubting…” (Robin Loc 5522)
All of these lessons and more are lessons Jak must learn as he journeys through the good and the bad life has to offer him. Jak himself is an amazingly complex character and one readers find themselves becoming very close to as they read for many could possibly even see themselves in him. Readers will meet him as a young boy just barely reaching the end of childhood and follow him as he ages into adulthood. While many stories do have readers meet a character young and then see them when they are older, how many of these stories actually take a reader through the years as the character grows up? Normally, there is a large gap that is missing between childhood and adulthood, but Robin allows readers to grow along with Jak and become more attached to his character. Readers will end up routing for him to succeed, scold him when he makes a bad decision, worry for him when he is in pain, and more. He houses so much of an average person that readers will find themselves relating to him in different ways.
As the story continues, readers will meet many new characters along with Jak. These characters are not overwhelming in the least for readers to remember who they are for they sort of trickle in at a slower pace, not confusing readers as to who they are or how they know Jak. As readers meet new characters, they may become attached to certain ones and question the intents of others, for no one, absolutely no one, can be trusted in A Thousand Roads. Even more enticing characters can be found within the two main deities of the story: Talamus and Azzadul. Another seemingly rare occurrence within novels, especially fantasy novels, are the presence of god-like deities for religion can be a touchy subject in today’s world. However, Robin created a very unique and enticing story behind his two gods and the battle waging between them.
The talented Robin has impressed with his dark fantasy debut. A Thousand Roads will capture the attention of many readers with its enticing and complex plot, its captivating world-building, its beautifully meticulous attention to detail, and its relatable and intriguing main character. It may seem intimidating due to its number of pages and there are parts in the story that can be a bit tricky to follow and imagine, but this should not stop a reader from picking up A Thousand Roads. Readers must prepare for an adventure unlike any they have experienced before for this is no ordinary fantasy tale. It is a surprising story that goes much deeper than one could imagine, making one even question their own choices in life and makes one think of the one true road they must travel. “A thousand roads may lie before you, but there is only one road that will lead you where you want to go.”