Title: The Staff of Kyade
Author: James L. Craig
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
When royal soldiers attack his village in search of a magical relic, Kenji watches in horror as all that he loves is destroyed. Determined that they will not get what they want, he takes the staff they seek and flees, vowing to avenge those he lost as soon as he can.
I usually love the fantasy stories which come out of this publisher and the quazi-ancient Japan setting of this story was another draw. However, a clumsy execution and some errors in continuity and style made this a story I couldn’t recommend.
The story begins with an old woman who sits down to tell her young grandchild a story – the story of how their village was once rescued by a young man. I have to admit, I’m never fond of these ‘let me tell you a story’ narratives because it allows for a bit of a dull narrative style in that we are being told a story rather than being allowed to experience it. Throughout the story, I found that the knowledge that this is a story being told to a child made some of the parts jump out as being not the sort of thing you would say to a child and therefore distracted me from what was happening on the page. For example, quite early on in the story the grandma uses the word ‘plethora’ which is rather an adult word to use when talking to a child. Later on, she describes the two protagonists having sex:
They embraced each other and kissed, eventually giving into their passions. As the night went on, they became one with each other. They spent their lustful nature before embracing with one last kiss and drifting off into sleep again.
Whilst this is relatively tame for a sex scene, an adult would not have even mentioned sex within a story and so again, despite it being a tender moment, it distracted rather than added to the story. Later this is turned into a bit of a joke between the boy and his grandma, but that didn’t prevent my initial thoughts on reading the scene pulling me out of the story.
Another aspect which jarred slightly were some inconsistencies in the story. For example, the heroes are told that when the time comes they should point a staff in the air and call upon another character. In fact when this moment happens, they break the staff instead. It seemed odd that they should be given such specific instructions and then fail to carry them out properly.
The story wasn’t all bad. I liked the setting and the overall theme of love overcoming evil was done well. I liked the two main characters, even if they fell into fairy-tale type tropish characters. I just wish the boy/grandma framing had been taken out and also some of the unnecessary dialogue tags. Then I think I would have enjoyed the story more than I did. It may be that some readers may not find the framing as annoying as I did, in which case this story may be to your taste, especially if you like fantasy stories.