Editorial Review: Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza, by Artyom Marklov

Editorial Review: Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza, by Artyom Marklov

Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza, by Artyom Marklov, is a new fantasy novel with intriguing litRPG elements. Before the novel opens, the entire fantasy world has been upset with the attacks of the powerful dragon leader, Lord Xanros, setting off the violent and tumultuous Great Betrayal. After years of war, there have been heavy casualties throughout the world, and now Lord Xanros rules the dragons and elves, and the Seedless Matron rules humans, beastmen and the Blooded. Into this world, a group of adventurers must work together to set things right.

The fast-paced action and collaborative adventures of Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza often feel like litRPG, an emergent fiction style that blends elements of role-playing games with narrative fiction. Maielk and his friends’ adventures are imbued with enjoyable elements of litRPG, as they apply their individual skills and strategize their battles like players in a virtual game. Tabletop RPG players and co-op gamers in general will enjoy how the characters must apply their different skills and talents to survive. So much of this story involves allied friends on an adventure of discovery in a detailed fantasy world, often with their combat actions described in individual turns or their unique skills highlighted,creating a fantasy novel with wonderful gamelike elements.

Because the story is focused on action and adventure, it may take readers a little while to get to know the characters and understand their motivations. Once the dynamics in the party and character relationships become clear, readers will feel invested in the story. The story is much stronger once readers understand why these friends have come together and what their overall and individual goals are. There’s a warm and lovely theme of found family and acceptance, in addition to exciting adventures with high stakes.

Character progression is also a key element in litRPG narratives, as game and fiction protagonists evolve through a series of trials and (mostly) victories. Once we get to know the characters of Shattered Eternity, readers can see them growing and evolving in this way. The protagonist Maielk is revealed through complications and layers as a courageous fighter and loyal friend. Sweet Saraath, the tough and playful Borthal, and the rest of the characters have strengths to be revealed, and there are intriguing individual story arcs to discover, in addition to the overall world-saving adventure.

The casual world-building throughout Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza is very well done. Fantasy novels can suffer from too much detailed exposition, which leads readers skimming and waiting for some action to get going, or too little, which leaves readers confused. The author here throws us into the action, and lets the characters make remarks that help set up the world, for example, complaining that an individual is more stubborn than an untrained pegasus or that one’s treatment has been worse than a wyvern’s. This works well for establishing a world populated by all sorts of fantasy creatures, and showing how our characters accept this background naturally.

Shattered Eternity: The First Stanza starts in the middle of the action, and ends with many questions unanswered, making it clear this is just the first stanza of this world’s story.