Every word is worth savoring in The Way of Edan, the masterful debut epic fantasy from Philip Chase and the first volume in his Edan Trilogy.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s influence is evident throughout The Way of Edan, starting with the circuitous path taken by Philip Chase toward publication of his debut. Following in Tolkien’s footsteps, Chase first established himself as a prominent medievalist and professor of English before devoting many years to develop his own fantasy world, Eormenlond. Like Middle-earth, Eormenlond feels fully realized, with The Way of Edan only scratching the surface of its history and lore.
Chase also shares Tolkien’s love of the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, which Tolkien translated into modern English in the 1920s. Chase describes Beowulf as a lamentation for the past: “It’s about how the things that are so precious to us in the present moment won’t always be around — the people we are with and the things we surround ourselves with. There is a kind of impermanence to life, which is what makes it precious.” This sentiment also pervades The Lord of the Rings, and Chase has captured the same feeling with sorrowful beauty throughout The Way of Edan.
Like The Lord of the Rings, Chase’s novel is epic in scope but has a personal feel. Chase smoothly shifts third person narration among several point of view characters in The Way of Edan, seeing the world through their eyes and helping the reader develop strong attachments to each of the main characters.
The time and care that Chase has spent writing The Way of Edan is evident throughout the novel. The Way of Edan is the most perfectly conceived and executed debut fantasy that I have read since The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Like Rothfuss, Chase’s writing is lyrical and evocative, without any of the stiffness sometimes associated with modern fantasy novels that strive too hard to achieve a classic feel.
Religion plays a pivotal role throughout The Way of Edan, as the kingdoms of Eormenlond descend into holy war. The title of the novel refers to the path of the god, Edan. Chase expertly captures the uneasy alliances that form between religious and political leaders, each seeking their own goals by taking advantage of the other.
I love a good soft magic system, and The Way of Edan delivers in spades, featuring mind melds, nature magic, miraculous healing, and much more. The scenes of magic instilled a sense of awe and mysticism that recalled the first time I read The Lord of the Rings as a child. There is a strong overlap between magic and religion in The Way of Edan, but religion does not have a monopoly on the magical arts.
The Way of Edan is surprisingly dark. Chase grabbed my attention from the opening prologue, giving realistic depictions of religious zealotry and violence. There are also a number of truly terrifying creatures dwelling in Eormenlond. Chase maintains an even pacing throughout the novel, introducing characters and worldbuilding in a natural fashion. I felt fully immersed in the story without ever becoming lost or confused, despite the complexity of the world and its large cast of characters. Grimdark fans will appreciate the gray morality embodied by several of the characters, in addition to those who appear objectively good or evil.
The Way of Edan strikes the perfect balance between modern and classic epic fantasy. Philip Chase manifests his deep love of literature in The Way of Edan, a lamentation that distills the best of fantasy from classics, such as Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings, through modern masterpieces like The Name of the Wind. Mercifully, Chase won’t make readers wait long for the next two volumes of his Edan Trilogy, which will be published later this year.