For this week’s book I’ve got a lovely small-press treasure by Tolkien scholar Richard W. Rohlin: Akborítha, to which is appended The Songs of the Seven Cities. I stumbled across this work courtesy of the God Learners podcast interviewing JM DeFoggi and Evan Franke, because JM mentioned a forthcoming roleplaying game which intrigued me, Amboria: Roleplaying in the World Under Starlight. I thought the game sounded cool, so I figured I’d check out the source material.

Okay, backstory out of the way. How was the book?

Akborítha, like many books I admire, falls into that weird space of “I like this a lot, but I’m not sure to whom I should recommend it.” It’s most similar to The Silmarillion, being a deep, dense history of a fantasy world. Tolkien’s phrase, “sub-creation,” feels quite apt here; I’m not enough of a linguist to understand Rohlin’s work entirely, but the feel of the fantasy languages isn’t “fictional.” They taste related to one another in my mouth, the way Tolkien’s worldbuilding does. Names like “Lanenomen,” “Sencankarr,” and “Orusena” each seem to fit within the context presented.

There are a few different stories told in Akborítha, but the general focus is upon the ancient history of Amboria, when its people appear to have left heaven (this part seemed intentionally vague), and first settled the lands around the Amborian Sea. Akborítha is not the “meta-plot” of the Amboria game, I suspect, but rather its “deep history,” or possibly a secret history, which players don’t actually know. The stories, like most ancient tales, blur the line between legend and history for the setting. “Academic” context is provided to increase the sense of realism, but for the most part I just sank into the language and the tales. The influence from Tolkien was very present, but I didn’t find it obnoxious, nor did I find the book derivative. Just influenced, and open about that. And I can hardly find fault in that.

The first focus is upon Lanenomen, who leads the people out of heaven, and into the world. The second focus is after Lanenomen’s dynasty is vanquished, and the people are trapped underground as slaves. Sencan then is the next hero, who forges a magic sword used to defeat five corrupt immortals and escape the underground prison. The first lands are abandoned, and a new nation is born to the west, under Sencan’s dynasty.

To this basic story structure is appended a fair bit of poetry. My favorites were the Hymns of Forging, describing making two magic weapons (including Sencan’s sword), because I’m a sucker for the alliterative, falling-foot feel of heroic English verse. I’m pretty rotten at writing it, but I love reading it, and Rohlin definitely scratched an itch.

Overall, Akborítha is difficult for me to describe, clearly. Emotionally, it just hit the right mark. I admire what Rohlin’s created here, and I’m looking forward to reading more with his forthcoming game. It manages to capture heroism and history, trials and tragedy, into such a short book. It’s a remarkable fragment of worldbuilding, written in a style which I find appealing.

Until next time, then.

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