Being a columnist at Our Write Side, I got my hands on a copy of A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley as an advanced reader copy. Other stuff happened that led to me not getting this review done until now. So—Dave, I am sorry this took way longer than expected—without further delay, here is my review of A Merchant in Oria.
A Merchant in Oria is a fantasy novella by David Wiley. Firion is a young merchant who thinks he is a savvier trader than he really is. It is his dream to trade with the dwarves from Oria. Little does he know the adventure in store for him when he attempts to make that dream come true.
First off, one of my favorite things about the book is how Wiley creates a lovable but inept character in Firion. The believability of Firion’s naïve ineffectiveness is spot on. He is very much so the everyday man who gets put into a position where he must step up to be the hero or walk away. Wiley achieves a good balance of believable incompetence without taking it too far. When Firion needs to step up, he does so in a way consistent with the characterization Wiley built to that point.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book is Wiley’s storytelling ability. The story pulled me in and kept me engaged right from the first page to the last. I even found myself wishing the story had a little more to it by the time I got to the end. There is an effortless and fun quality to the storytelling in this novella that is refreshing and refined.
Finally, I liked Wiley’s world building in this story. Even though it is a novella, I did not get the sense Wiley stinted on his world building. The different countries and kingdoms were well defined as was the political intrigue amongst them. Each of the races in the story were distinct and developed. Even details like clothing and language were addressed. I felt like Wiley has spent time in that world and it shows in the way this story reads.
There were two things that disappointed me a little. First, the ending seemed to be a little too easy given Firion’s characteristic struggles to be a hero. I would have liked the ending to be drawn out just a little more, play into his challenges, and find the resolution it did despite Firion’s problems. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the ending itself. It just seemed a little rushed getting there.
The other piece I missed was the excellent characterization for the villains in the story. Wiley did such a nice job with Firion and his companions, but the villains seemed to get left out of that. I am uncertain if this was done intentionally or as an oversight, but it would have been nice to see them fleshed out as characters more.
A Merchant in Oria is a fun, light, and enjoyable read, particularly for anyone who loves fantasy. There are several good things happening in this story that well outweigh any downside to it. I am looking forward to seeing more of what Wiley can do. Overall, I give this a 4 out of 5 stars.