This book is the epic-est of epic fantasy. Full stop. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a door-stopper like this one, and even longer since I’ve enjoyed one half as much.
Some books work on the strength of their world-building. Others falter when it comes to the world, but pull you through on the strength of the characters alone. Others may have a stirring plot that carries from beginning to end, with a masterful weaving of threads throughout. I am glad to say that Greg Close succeeds on all three accounts, something much easier to say than to do. His characterization is strong, his world-building simply staggering, and the story itself is brilliant. Though at times, due to its immense length, I found myself wondering whether a certain point-of-view was entirely necessary, the end pulled them all together and left me with an understanding that yes, indeed, they are all necessary.
In the past few decades, many fantasy writers seem to be plying their trade with a certain sense of secret shame and/or irony. Perhaps the most famous work in fantasy right now is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (thanks in large part to its HBO adaptation), which is a thorough deconstruction of the fantasy tropes introduced by Tolkien and carried like buckets of water by the following generations, slowly slopping their meaning and wonder over the sides as they labor beneath the weight of the grandfather of fantasy.
Greg Close takes precisely the opposite tack. His story runs directly into the face of the fantasy tropes that we’ve been reading for years, and instead of shrinking from them, he embraces them without irony, incorporating them into his world. Instead of being shackled to the norms of fantasy, he bends them to his own purposes, allowing things to feel simultaneously familiar and new. This story contains many of the things we all expect to see in the most cliche fantasy: a young prince with a destiny, a star-struck backwoods boy, knights and kings, mysterious elves, dwarves beneath the mountains, and more–and yet there is enough new imagination here to make these creaking and aged tropes feel young again.
This is a lofty comparison indeed, but In Siege of Daylight works for many of the same reasons that Star Wars: A New Hope does. At their core they are both the Hero’s Journey, but they each contain enough real wonder, enough heart and strength in storytelling that, as a fantasy fan, it may feel like you’re reading about things that you know like the back of your hand for the very first time.