Una’ria The Vanguard Echoes
by Daniel Cruz


Reviewed by Rich Stoehr

The first thing to know about the age of Una’ria is that humans, as we know them, are gone. This is a world and a time that is almost entirely new, and yet oddly familiar.

Daniel Cruz’s science fiction epic (there is no other word for it) is a richly-imagined story of humanity’s descendants, flung far into the future and onto the world of Talavera, now known as, Elotha some three million years after Noah’s Ark brought the first humans to the new world. Since then, they have evolved into the rytelios, a new species with a sort of sixth sense, called valant, and a pair-bonded relationship with smaller winged beings known as famixa.

After a bit of introduction by way of a “vintage” film about a human who is revived in the age of Una’ria, Cruz introduces us to the vast world he has built through a rytelios named Laniard and his winged companion Ekans, and an unexpected disaster in what appears to be a terrorist attack. Closely following the very public destruction of an airship, Laniard is drawn into an intense combat with a powerful enemy bent on the kidnap of a young girl.

If it seems complicated so far, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From this relatively simple beginning, the story of ‘Una’ria‘ grows rapidly to encompass multiple locations and ever more dangerous situations for Lan’ek (the “combine name” of the pair-bonded Laniard and Ekans) and those they meet. Driving it all is the pursuit of the powerful foe Balevdrüx, the combatant Lan’ek met and narrowly escaped. When the action heats up is where ‘Una’ria’ excels as a story, and the many battle and fight sequences read like a detailed action film.

It’s not all fighting, though, and in their downtime the characters have a chance to get to know each other and even take in some live entertainment, in the form of a Raj Tialy spectacle that almost defies imagination – think a live concert combined with the special effect of a studio film and you might be getting there. And through it all we experience the rich, detailed world that Daniel Cruz has created.

It’s clear that Cruz has spent a lot of time bringing this world into being, and no detail is missed. From the forest canopy of Manaf Dahola to the city of Valagüaba, from the mechanized armor suits piloted by rytelios through a mixture of telekinetic abilities and physical reflexes, to the majestic ilionus, mystical beings summoned across dimensions by mancers in the midst of combat – this is a fully-imagined world and as much as we get of it here, I get the impression that there is so much more to be seen.

There is a downside to such a richly-imagined world, and it comes into play when describing the setting or a particular piece of Eloshan history slows down the story. As much as I admire the full-bodied world I experienced in these pages, there were several times when I found myself getting anxious to get back to the story – the chase after the mysterious Balevdrüx and the web of intrigue surrounding him. I was sometimes overwhelmed by all the names to remember and new words to take in, though there is an appendix at the end which helps with the latter.

All told, ‘Una’ria‘ is an impressive novel of the far-flung future, and it’s clear that Daniel Cruz has taken his time and taken no shortcuts in imagining this new world. Despite occasional frustrations with pacing or all the new vocabulary to take in, the culture explored in these pages and the story told there is worth the time it takes to get there, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from the age of Una’ria.

Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

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