Road of the Lost: Book One of the Judges Cycle
Road of the Lost: The Land of Nod is the first book in Aidan Russell’s Judges Cycle series. War has come to the land of Nod as the Narfur and ogres prepare to wake a sleeping demon. New knights, Jerah and Gratas, are tasked with a simple job: find Reslo Tailrep and the holy sword. Reslo has a chance to work with his people to save the forest they call home, but working alongside two young knights wasn’t part of his plan. He’s sure they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but to save his home, he’ll do whatever it takes to stop the rising evil.
Gratas and Jerah are never apart and often bickering, but also easily work together and play well off each other. They have a brotherly bond, which makes it that anytime another character is thrown into a scene with them, it’s often met with humor, which is primarily seen when they end up with Reslo. He’s a balance to them, for he’s more serious and a bit of an outsider, but he’s also a great fit to them because all of them are in a place where they’re trying to prove themselves.
Caredan has little time, but he resonates because he’s met when he’s leaving home for the first time to go off and learn. He gets thrown into Gratas and Jerah’s way when he gets abducted by ogres, and they end up saving him. He’s the guiding force that leads them to Reslo and then he drifts away, but he feels like he belongs in the story.
With a setting that includes elves, ogres, fairies, and even an epic scene with a dragon, everything remains grounded in reality. Though, a lot of little touches of magic are included throughout their journey. An aspect that I love is Reslo’s ability to communicate with animals. Every scene with Reslo and animals reveals little details about him, about the forest and is an innocent aspect of this world. Even when they run into a bear, while Reslo is talking, it doesn’t seem at all vicious and feels as innocent as the little squirrel that offers him its food.
The whimsy nature of the fairies is delightful every time they’re seen from the pixies to the little fairies with the big eyes. Though, they’re more whimsical personalities are grounded and well-balanced with the more serious attitudes of the Seelies. The humor balances out the grimmer aspects of war and is a need amid the violence. Their entire journey happens against a backdrop of violence and often includes them fighting, but nothing ever gets too gory. The details are precise and pulls you into every moment, whether it’s fighting or a simple, calm moment. Russell captures each character’s personalities to a T, regardless of what they are, and makes each one realistic. Road of the Lost is a thrilling fantasy adventure with action and humor that follows a hero’s journey.