Ringlander: The Path and the Way – the debut fantasy novel from Michael S. Jackson – is an absolute riot.
Set in Rengas, a continent dominated by conflict, the occupying & brutish Bohr seek to quash an ongoing rebellion from the native human population. Meanwhile, an astral war engulfs the cosmos above, with the world torn apart by competing realities.
Sound complex? At first, it does come across a little abstract.
However, Jackson’s brilliant writing guides the reader deftly, navigating the various factions of Rengas, from the Tsiorc rebels to the Pathfinders of the North.
This is a fantasy novel with a truly original lore – and that’s a really exciting prospect for future entries in the series.
Overview – Ringlander: The Path and the Way
Fantasy lives or dies by three key elements: world-building, characters, and narrative.
And from the beginning, it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into Ringlander. It’s a well-realised world, with its own terminology and detailed topography. For this reason, both a map and glossary are included. These are welcome additions, designed to assist the reader in their journey through Rengas.
The glossary is oddly selective, however. More often than I would have liked, I’d consult the glossary, only to find that the entry I was looking for was conspicuously absent. It’s not a deal-breaker, as the novel does a decent job of introducing the reader to its concepts, but more definitions would have been welcome.
As for the characters – they’re an impressionable, well-drawn bunch for the most part. Kyria, Fia, Jagar, and Iqaluk are certainly explored in more detail than perhaps some of the supporting characters, for example. Nonetheless, I was impressed how Ringlander’s characters largely break free of the more overt fantasy tropes.
Kyria and Atalfia, for example, are genuinely compelling in their own right, demonstrating charisma, single-mindedness, and courage. Nor do they require approval from their male counterparts. Plus they’re thankfully freed of the far-too-familiar shackles of hyper-sexualisation, which was welcoming to read. Meanwhile, Jagar, the banéman, remains an unsettling menace, whilst Rathe – half-Bohr, half human – experiences a particularly interesting arc.
The narrative presented is solid. Early on, it’s a little confusing whilst the reader acclimatises to the world. You may find yourself flicking to and fro between the map & the glossary. However, the patient reader is rewarded by a scintillating ending of drama that teases a sequel.
The first installment in Ringlander’s universe is a fantastic read. It’s clear, concise, and compelling.
Ringlander is a well-written fantasy novel, highly descriptive (though not obtusely so), and the prose reads exceptionally well. It’s liberating to read a fantasy novel that gets its point across in under 500 pages, avoiding the usual prevarication and overly descriptive writing associated with the genre.
The narrative is decent, the characters well-rounded, and the world-building impressive for a debut effort. And with additional books planned in the future, watch this space – I’ll certainly be checking out Jackson’s future entries in the world of Rengas!