The Twins by Gary Wassner. Review by Andrea Johnson

Book Cover
Being somewhat new to the genre of "epic fantasy," I wasn't sure what to expect with The Twins. I got more than I bargained for in one of hell of a roller coaster, and as there are soon to be four books in the series, it ain't over yet.

I can't do justice to Wassner's story telling skills without divulging some plot details. Don't worry, no spoilers, yet. The world of The Twins is populated by humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, other magical creatures, and it's most beautiful facet, the sentient race of trees, known as the Lalas (I'm a bit of a tree hugger, so I just adored the sentient tree thing). Every Lalas chooses a human partner, who, once chosen, is seen as a sacred representative of the Lalas, and treated like priestly nobility. The Lalas communicate with each other and their chosen through their network of interconnected roots, which cover the entire earth. They are literally a binding force, keeping the world and its peoples at peace. All Lalas descend from "The First" Lalas, an ancient and myth-shrouded tree, who holds the sacred Gem of Eternity. When the Gem begins to fade, the trees begin to die, taking their chosen, and soon the rest of the world, with them. The child of the ancient prophecies must be found and trained to fulfill his destiny, the Gem of Eternity must be found, and the Dark Lord with a deep hatred of the Lalas must be stopped.

Sound heavy? It is. Sound epic? It is. If you think you can read just the first book in the series and get everything out of it that's to be gotten, think again.

As a fan of the "don't tell me, show me" style of writing, I appreciated the ways in which Wassner introduces us to his incredibly detailed world—through the eyes and experiences of his characters. Everyone is reshaped in some fashion by what happens to them. Nothing in this world happens in a vacuum, and everything happens for a reason. The Twins involves a kaleidoscope of characters, all with fully developed personalities, backgrounds, and belief systems. From the mysterious boy Tomas, to the creepy and seductive Dark Lord Colton, everyone has a story to tell, and everyone must work together to ensure that their side wins the ultimate battle. As much as I want to say how cool the battle scenes are, and how suspenseful the chase scenes are (they are very cool, and quite suspenseful), the action is merely the byproduct of what's going on in the plot.

The only drawbacks for me stem from personal pet peeves, and did not affect the overall quality of the book for me. Someone who I thought was going to be a main character spends the entire book in a coma, and I was disappointed I didn't get to know him better. I'm going to assume that Wassner has a good reason for this plot twist. At the end, I felt the chapters got a little short. Not that they weren't full of information, because they were, they just seemed cut up a little oddly, and made things a little choppy at times.

All in all, this book is beautifully written, there is enough detail that I felt I was getting to know the characters quite well, but not so much that I felt I was drowning in it. In an emotional, evocative manner, The Twins reminds me a little of The Neverending Story, despite the differences in plot. Wassner is a master of foreshadowing, while still keeping the reader guessing at every plot twist. He is a loving and passionate creator for this world, giving it strengths, passions, its own mythology, and a dark side to balance it all out. Plot lines and characters' lives intertwine in unexpected ways to show that everything is connected in one manner or another.

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Andrea Johnson lives in beautiful southwestern Michigan with her husband, and spends as much time as possible reading and enjoying science fiction and other speculative fiction. She is an administrator and book reviewer at Worm's Sci Fi Haven and an official reviewer at Multiverse.