Title: Traveler (The Druid Chronicles Volume One)

Publisher: 5 Elements Press

Author: J. Paige Dunn

Pages: 324 pp

Price: $12.99 (paperback) / free (ebook)

A century ago, the world fractured. Mother Earth rebelled against the damage that had been done to her by her human children. A series of violent earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis destroyed the cities, tore down the governments, and decimated the human population. The Gods of old returned and They brought magic with Them .... In the wake of the calamity, humanity slowly rebuilt, but on a much smaller scale. Towns and villages came to rule themselves with only broken highways and trails to connect them. Trade caravans are once again plentiful, but so are bandits and thieves. Unfortunately, the Travelers who once found the safe routes and the clean water sources are increasingly rare, and the Druids who had been tasked by the Gods with repairing the world have withdrawn to their own city, just when the world needs them the most ....

Books like Traveler are the reason I write this blog. This is one of the most explicitly polytheist fantasies that I have read in a long time; not just polytheist-friendly, but with full-on Pagan characters. Davis, our Traveler hero, was raised by his parents to honor the Celtic pantheon; considering all the life-and-death situations in which he finds himself, he pays particular reverence to the Morrigan. Angie, our Druid heroine, recognizes many many Deities, but is especially devoted to Oya and Shango.

The world of Traveler is a fascinating combination of familiar and alien, comforting and frightening. Technology has definitely returned to a pre-industrial level. Horses and wagons are the norm and buildings over two stories are extremely rare. Considering the size and relative isolation of communities, food is seasonal and grown locally.

Religious tension and prejudice, unfortunately, are still common. Most people are Triune, a variation on Christianity. There are also large segments of the population who practice some version of polytheism, such as Davis and his family, Angie and her fellow Druids, and even covens of witches. There are also atheist communities. Some of the Triune still hold to the old belief that "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Davis and Angie are warned away more than once from towns which burn suspected "devil worshippers." And the one time they cannot avoid such a city, it nearly costs them their lives.

As protagonists, Davis and Angie are both very appealing. Though his parents are respected gardeners in their town, Davis himself was ostracized and isolated. He takes to the road as a Traveler, hoping to find a purpose and a place for himself. Angie is a Druid with a mission: she must find her warrior, her sworn protector. The ArchDruid who rules her grove is a vindictive and power-hungry woman who has dragged the Druids away from their Gods-given task. Angie wants to return her people to their roots, but she can only do so by finding a warrior from outside the grove.

Their journey from Davis' home to Angie's grove is one filled with danger, narrow escapes, magic, bandit attacks, more magic, love, and passion. And it was one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I have only two complaints about Traveler. The first -- as is so often the case with self-published and small press titles -- is the surprising number of grammatical and typographical errors. The book needed a much more thorough edit before it was released.

The second is the timeline. During the Fracture, not only did earthquakes tear down the cities, but volcanoes filled the atmosphere with ash and greenhouse gases. Global temperatures rose. The polar ice caps melted, changing the salinity of the oceans. I find it difficult to believe that the world could have recovered sufficiently in only a century, with the ice caps rebuilt, the shorelines returned to normal, and weather patterns fully restored.

Nonetheless, I definitely recommend Traveler, especially to fans of Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing, Jolene Dawe's Caleyna Summoner series, and John Michael Greer's post-apocalyptic adventure, Star's Reach

Traveler is the first book on The Druid Chronicles. The second, Warrior, is currently available, but no release date has yet been set for book three.