For over a thousand years, the four kingdoms have lived in peace, under the guidance of a central council of elders. Each kingdom is ruled by someone marked with the symbol of their respective kingdoms. The North, a land of snow covered mountains, is ruled by Crow, while the king of the West wetlands is Tancho. Both are 25 years old, and destined to meet, along with the rulers of the other two kingdoms, for the first time at a festival celebrating a once-in-one-thousand-years eclipse. Once the two men meet, it's clear their destinies are somehow intertwined, but before they can get any answers word comes that Tancho's kingdom has been invaded by strange creatures. He and Crow set off to investigate, and thus the adventure begins.
“Lacuna” is quite a well constructed fantasy story set in a sort of ‘simplified’ version of Earth where magic is real. The northerners are very much like alpine Germanic tribes while those of the west have a decidedly Japanese element. The people of the east feel like tropical Vikings while in the south are peoples used to living in a desert.
The point of view switches between the two main characters, Crow and Tancho, which allows us to get to know each of them quite well. Crow is what you'd expect from someone raised in a rugged snow-covered mountain climate, a big man with a big sword. Tancho also comes across as what we'd expect from a Japanese inspired land — thin and lithe but very quick, as well as calm and centered, at least until he meets Crow. He and his two companions are very ninja-like in their fighting skills.
Each of the kings have companions and mentors, so there is a rather large cast of characters all together. The interaction between the kings and their companions provides many of the story's lighter moments. While the bulk is the story is quite serious, and even brutal in parts, there are some funny bits to relieve the tension.
While the story is quite a ride once it gets started, I do have a bit of a nit to pick with the setup. The whole thing starts with the four kings meeting for the first time ever at some big festival, for which they've prepared their whole lives. Yet it's never really made clear what they were preparing for. It's largely irrelevant once things go off the rails, but it is one of those plot points that nags at me, probably because it's otherwise a well-constructed story.
“Lacuna” is available from Amazon.