Michael D. Warden's debut novel, Gideon's Dawn, is ambitious and satisfyingly complete. The world Warden has created is clever and unique; the complex tale incorporates a comfortable blend of genres, from fantasy to suspense, and from mystery to political thriller.
Gideon Dawning is a teacher leading an expedition of students up the gentle slope of a mountain. What appears to be an earthquake shatters the peaceful hike as the Earth splits and swallows up Gideon. When he awakens, it is immediately clear that he is no longer in Texas. All that he has with him is the tree branch that he used as a walking stick. The stunned army surrounding him would prefer to kill him. Witnesses, however, saw Gideon speak. His words caused a storm that wiped out their enemies.
The people of this land fight with words, like wielding magic. There are good words, the words of Creation, and then there the bad words, the words that the Council Lords of Phallenar control. The classic battle is alive as good against evil, neither side believing in harmony or coexistence.
Gideon's unusual arrival and way with the magical words causes a ripple in their universe. Everyone is sure that Gideon is the man who will fulfill the prophecies, so the people of the word of Creation want Gideon alive to lead them into battle against the Council Lords. The Council Lords want Gideon so they can prevent him from destroying them and fulfilling the prophecies. The problem is, no one is positive if Gideon is really the redeemer they've been waiting for.
His journey from across the lands to discover the truth about his identity is action-packed in a world with strange and dangerous beasts, wonderful and beautiful creatures. The landscape is sometimes desolate and harsh like a barren desert, or plush and lively like the Garden of Eden might have looked at the beginning of time. The characters are fresh, three-dimensional and well-drawn. Warden's novel is fast, intense and inventive. If you enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, I don't see how you can overlook Gideon's Dawn and still consider yourself a fan of classic fantasy novels.