I could say nothing.
That is, after all, what Ren means in the language of the Kobold – Nothing. Why is she named Nothing? To answer that, you’ll want to read this book, which is an outstanding contribution to the field of Fantasy works. David Adams should be proud of Ren. He expertly created a world with multiple intelligent races – Kobold, Gnome, Elf, Human, Dragon – and has a clear picture he lays out for the reader while telling the story in “Ren of Atikala.”
What I will say instead — I love it.
Immediately after opening the book, the reader can see the love and passion Adams has for the world he created – beautiful maps that paint a picture even before you are engaged in the story. In fact, if you look, the larger map has so many places Adams hasn’t even touched on or referenced in “Ren of Atikala,” leaving you with the impression Adams has much more planned for Ren beyond the initial journey she is forced to take.
I’m a casual fantasy fan, so I wasn’t familiar with kobolds, but Adams has done a fantastic job taking a species usually considered to be evil or inherently violent and turning them into the heroes of the story.
But, let’s get back to Ren, because without her this story wouldn’t exist. Ren is a six-year-old female kobold. She is special – when her egg was tossed in the fire to be destroyed, she was made alive by the flames, a heritage that haunts her throughout the book. Her skin is gold and she is a sorceress – a place above the normal warriors in their culture, even though she still wants to join the warriors as well.
It is on a warrior patrol that Ren and her companion Khavi survive the total destruction of their home – the city Atikala. With no place to return to, they immediately focus on vengeance for the annihilation of their friends and families – aiming for the gnomes.
However, as their journey progresses through the Underworld, their worldview is changed by their experiences and those they meet along the way. Khavi is much more grounded in traditional Kobold culture, but Ren sees more to life – a way of life that Kobold before her have not adopted. It is eventually that way of life that saves her with profound consequences in the end.
There is so much to love about this book. Told from the point of view of a species about half the size of a human, we are treated to a unique perspective on new sights and sounds. For example, when a gnome takes off her shoes – which Ren and Khavi believed to be her actual feet, they were at first disgusted and amazed at her “outer feet” and how she could climb on rocks and walk with them. Then when the same gnome was apparently sweating, to the lizard-like kobold, this was a foreign concept and Ren likened it “body tears” providing for moments of levity for the reader.
I was heavily invested in Ren’s story more and more as the book went on and will be very interested to read the next installment in Ren’s story as soon as Mr. Adams can write it. Excellent book – I highly recommend it to any fantasy fan.