It has recently been reported that a Roman ring, suggested by some to have inspired Tolkien when he was writing The Hobbit, has been put on display at The Vyne, a Tudor house in Hampshire, in association with the Tolkien Society.
I have some reservations about this story, both from the perspective of a writer and as the holder of a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology.
The media reporting this story, as well as the people at the Vyne and in the Tolkien Society, display a lack of understanding of how inspiration works for a writer. In fairness, I can’t speak for other writers, but I find inspiration is never about one thing. Inspiration comes from a thousand sources, and the way I link my experiences to one another.
Exiles of Arcadia: Legionnaire by James Gawley is a recently released novella telling the tale of Primus, a young legionnaire eager for the approval of his absent father, who finds himself learning a lot about the world and the rebellion his father helped lead as he sets out on a mission he feels he knows far too little about. It is set in a world strongly reminiscent of the Roman republic with hints that there’s something more, something magical in the world.
It is a well crafted story with convincing, interesting characters. But I felt it lacked direction; about a quarter of the way in, I realised I didn’t know where the story was going – what Primus’ goals were or what might be achieved. Primus follows actions, reacting to what is going on around him, rather than driving the plot. But then I realised I’d got a quarter of the way into the story before I had noticed this – a testament to Gawley’s strong prose and his ability to generate immersion in a reader.
The story ends rather abruptly; while there is certainly a climactic height of action and tension, and some interesting revelations, there remains the sense that the story is not yet done, merely the first volume of it. There are too many questions left unanswered, too much action promised by the story, for it to be concluded here. But it is strong enough for me to look forward to the next installment.
I found Exiles of Arcadia: Legionnaire an enjoyable, engrossing read and rate it 8/10.