In his Neuyokkasinian Arc of Empire series, C. Craig Coleman has created an epic high fantasy that is well-paced throughout all six books and rich in both the world building and the characterizations. Coleman’s writing style is succinct but vivid, and the saga follows the archetype of the hero’s quest seen throughout classic literature. The stories are tales of adventure, courage, heartache, and loyalty, full of action, symbolism, and a distinct southern charm. The Arc of Empire series, like those classical tales of heroic quests, is a moral story, but it manages to be so eloquently and subtly, without fanaticism or brow-beating.
The first book, The Dragon Ring, introduces the reader to a young, untried hero, Saxthor, a boy of thirteen. Though in the beginning, the hero is a boy, the story reads as an ageless tale, and it is a gripping coming of age novel following the young hero in his flight from familial and political intrigues.
The Crystal Legacy is the second book, and it follows the hero and his band of followers in a perilous quest to recover powerful lost jewels even as he longs to return home. Here the classical quest elements come further into play, even as we see young Saxthor growing into a true leader.
In the third book, Saxthor and his followers finally return home, but the land is in turmoil and war looms on the horizon. Geopolitics comes into play more in The Crown of Yensupov than it did in the first two books, but the story is still largely focused on character interaction and the trials, triumphs, and heartbreak that Saxthor and his loyal friends face. The Crown of Yensupov is a turning point in the series, and it sets the stage for the tumult of the last three books.
Saxthor has only recently been crowned king when he is confronted with an all-out war. The Dreaddrac Onslaught reads like a game of political chess and military strategy, and the story shows the growth and development of the internal and external struggles of the new king. The suspense is gripping throughout, and the story is darker and grittier than the other tales.
The Powterosian War is bittersweet with betrayals, exploring the toll of war. Saxthor faces increasingly insurmountable odds, but in book five he has fully matured into a hero, having grown from the carefree boy in the first book into a military genius. Grisly and full of intrigue and hardships, the story grabs the reader from page one and maintains that grip throughout, building the anticipation for the conclusion of the series.
The final tale of the series, The Pinnacle of Empire, is full of Coleman’s characteristic unpredictable twists. This sixth book is a study of the human condition, and the reader has been given a hero who, throughout the saga, has maintained his humanity, from boyhood to his position as emperor.
The Arc of Empire series proves Coleman is a master storyteller. His characters are fully fleshed, well-drawn and individual, and he takes archetypes and expounds on them, giving us a tale both classically familiar and unique. Both complex and straightforward in his lyrical storytelling, Coleman has created an epic high fantasy with fascinating plot twists and memorable characters. The Arc of Empire series is unforgettable, gripping, and a must-read.