The Last Motley takes place in a world known as Arinn, which looks at first glance similar to our own world as it was somewhere in the Middle Ages – both veteran readers of fantasy and newcomers to the genre will settle in easily. Briar’s Glen, the village where protagonist Roderick lives, is a place of humble outdoor markets, cottages, and dusty dirt roads – a quiet backwater of Arinn. Quiet, that is, until the motley arrives.
Roderick himself, a tailor by trade, is as modest and unassuming as his hometown, and not given to risk-taking or adventures. When the unusual – and even supernatural – breaks in on his predictable life, he is quickly out of his league. But because Roderick is motivated by love and a desire to do what is right, he accepts a task that will take him far from safety and home.
Strength of character matters in The Last Motley. Roderick falls in with a number of companions through the course of his adventure, and not all are to be trusted. Some of those he meets are wavering between conquering or being corrupted by their own darkness. But the greater danger may be enemies who aren’t even human –nightmare creatures from outside the world. They are drawn to the very power that might save Roderick and his companions, creating a dilemma that intensifies with each new danger: the available magic that might be the only way to save them will also attract the shadowy creatures known as scathen. You may think you know how the story is going to end; trust me, you don’t.
While the land of Arinn is beset by both human and supernatural evil, these things exist within the context of a world created and governed by a beneficent and omnipotent Power known to all good folk as Adonai. Faith is explicit in The Last Motley, and while, as in our own experience, Providence doesn’t remove all suffering or guarantee safety, there is a moral order to the universe in which Roderick lives that delineates right from wrong, good from evil, truth from falsehood. Adonai is shown to be worth trusting in even the most painful or frightening circumstances.
Since this is a fantasy tale in the form of the journey-quest story perfected by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, by following the characters across Arinn, we get to see more of that world of the author’s making. It’s true you can tell a perfectly good story set in just the protagonist’s home town, but imagine all the things we would have missed if Tolkien had set his books just in the Shire alone, and shown us only what evil came to their doorstep? We would have never travelled to Rivendell, Moria, Lothlorien or the Lonely Mountain. Edwardson leads us through some of the countryside and cities of Arinn, but gives us a sense that there is much more than what we see, that there are lands beyond this river or that fold of hills that don’t figure in this tale, but have tales of their own. Part of the glory of Middle-Earth is what we don’t see, there are always more lands beyond, a living world mostly unexplored, with the weight of a long history behind it. In The Last Motley Edwardson leaves the feeling that there is much more of Arinn to be seen and more of its past to be revealed.
The length of the book is given as 422 pages, which surprised me – reading the Kindle version, there are no pages numbers, and the book read quickly enough that I would have thought it considerable shorter.
After I finished enjoying the book I gave it to my high-school-age daughter, an avid appreciator of fantasy, and she gave it a thumbs-up as well. This is one book that a parent needs not be concerned about to giving to their older child, in that there is no offensive language or sexual content. What violence occurs is not particularly graphic, and while the confrontations with the monstrous scathen could frighten some younger children, it is unlikely that kids that young would have the attention span to read this book. I would expect The Last Motley could be enjoyed by more literate children of middle-school age and up, as well as adults.
Buy this first exploration of the world of Arinn, and see if you don’t crave more!