The Suffering by Robert Cano is a dark fantasy novella that helps set the scene for The Dark Archer. It tells of Devani and the trials she endures on her road to becoming a key player in her former Guard Captain Bene’s life after becoming a wraith.
First off, let me start by saying this is a dark fantasy, and I mean dark. There is no happy ending; though there are a few bright spots through the story. Those bright spots become the perfect foil for the pain and anguish in the rest of the story. Now, I know, how is this a wonderful thing? What I love is that Cano creates the darkness beautifully, in a way that is believable and real, which can be a challenging thing to do. Also, those bright spots are the perfect balance.
I also loved about this story are the characters. They are flawed and real and wonderful. Each of them grows through realistic and believable story arcs. Their motivations are simple and relatable. And each step they take throughout the story makes sense for each of them and makes sense in the context of the rest of the events as they play out. There’s so much each of them has in their stories packed into the short space of this novella, yet it all works well together.
Finally, I appreciate Cano’s world-building skills. He takes the time to develop the fine details to the world, adding a level of realism to the novella and the fantasy world within. Each race of characters has their own attitudes, beliefs, and customs that are distinct from the other races. The politics are there in all their dirty, crazy, messy, glory. The details to the geography make it easy to imagine the world the characters live in.
The main point I have for criticisms is more of a heads up than a dislike. The prose can become complex and dense. It is done well, don’t get me wrong. It’s more of a stylistic thing that, if a reader is not prepared for, can be difficult to get through. Like I said, though, the prose is well written, and I enjoyed the intricacy of it. I can, however, see how this could be a turn off for some readers.
The other thing I have for a criticism is that to me the story felt a little rushed. Yes, there’s a lot that happens and Cano packs the action in there. Yet, it happens at a pace that stretches believability at times. The shift from where Devani starts to where she is at the end of the novella seems to me like it’s a little quick for how much of a shift. Now, that being said, I think this is a fairly subtle issue to me. This is especially when the story itself does such an excellent job of drawing the reader in it becomes barely noticeable.
Here’s the deal. If you love dark fantasy in a pure and concentrated form, check this story out. Yes, the prose could be challenging, but trust me, it is worth it. The story explores some very real, very personal human traits and emotions in a fantasy world that will spark a desire to know what happens next. Thankfully, the answer to that is found in The Dark Archer.