Prince of Bryanae is a self-published novel that does everything right. It starts by having a fast-moving, well-written story as its core and reason for being, but in addition the author, Jeff Getzin, has gone those extra miles that, sadly, few self-published authors seem to realize are necessary; he has obviously had professionals provide him with editing and layout as well as a well-done cover painting, and the result is a fully professional novel that can sit proudly next to anything the big houses produce.
I will admit that I have a personal connection to this novel – which I will detail at the end – but I also wouldn't have FINISHED the novel had it not been able to stand on its own. I won't review material or provide blurbs for it unless I actually enjoy what I'm given.
Prince of Bryanae is the story of Captain Willow, a nigh-immortal elven warrior in the almost completely human kingdom of Bryanae. Hardened and aloof, Willow has found her niche and seems content, if not happy, to live out her extremely long life as a fixture in the military of Bryanae.
But in a swift series of shocking events, she goes from the half-legendary warrior leader to a disgraced and hunted woman, confused and frightened yet determined to carry out the one duty she cannot relinquish: to rescue the Prince who was kidnapped before her very eyes.
To do this, she will have to confront horrors that she had hidden from herself – walled off within the innermost core of her mind – and travel to the now-occupied homeland of the Elves, and survive long enough to find the Prince… and discover some way to rescue him from within the greatest stronghold of his enemies… and hers.
As a personal experience, I would consider reading Prince of Bryanae as similar to seeing The Dark Knight; this novel rode the very line of my tolerance for darkness. I am glad I read it, it was a worthy experience, and I will likely never read it again. Jeff Getzin pulls no punches and follows the dictum of "never make it easy for your character" to the extreme. Willow suffers setback after setback, and horrific events – both in the present and revealed in her past – are almost common. It is, quite literally, not until the last few chapters that it seems she has any chance of success at all, and not until the last chapter will she get true relief.
But that is my personal taste. Those who prefer a harder, grittier, darker edge to their fantasy will find Prince of Bryanae a very worthy novel indeed. Oh, there are some minor nits to pick – some names might have been chosen better, some concepts or portions of the world might have been explained more fully (perhaps a gazetteer might be added, Jeff?), but the story MOVES in a way few novels manage, taking you at a breakneck pace straight into Willow's personal hell and back with scarcely a moment for the reader to catch their breath, let alone poor Willow and her companions – or adversaries, for that matter.
Finally, a reveal of my personal interest in this novel: the author, Jeffrey Getzin, was the GM in the campaign for which I created and ran Kyrie Ross, the character who became Kyri Vantage, one of the main characters in my own novel Phoenix Rising. Many of the basic features of her background and character were defined in that campaign, which took place back in my early days in Pittsburgh. Jeff was also a player in my Zarathan campaign, and created the unforgettable, incomparable swashbuckling character D'Arbignal, swordsman and rogue. As a major part of D'Arbignal's background, I created for Jeff the distant island country of Bryanae and its major players.
I gave Bryanae to Jeff when he left the campaign; it seemed right to do so, because even that whole country, which had grown more detailed in my mind as the campaign went on, still felt as though it belonged, not merely to Jeff, but to D'Arbignal himself, an inextricable part and parcel of that character's background. I was very pleased to see that Bryanae has continued to live and grow… and to see certain references that have meaning to me, personally, in that world.
Well done, Jeff!