Review by Frank Plowright
It’s a surprisingly common misconception that the word ‘sojourn’ means the same as ‘journey’ or ‘quest’, when in fact the definition is that of a brief period of residence. When they created Sojourn CrossGen seemed to be among those misunderstanding the definition. It’s another of the fantasy titles the company were so good at producing, featuring well-conceived scenarios pitting one person against a seemingly invulnerable conquering presence and forever keeping the pot simmering, a finale always just out of reach.
The villain is Mordath, definitively defeated centuries previously, yet somehow alive again leading his army of Trolls and determined to rule the Five Lands completely this time. He was beaten in the past by a hero named Ayden, but as explained in the prologue chapter showing how, repeating the trick requires reuniting the five fragments of a mystical arrow, which introduces the quest element. That falls to Arwyn, an archer who swears vengeance on Mordath after her family has been killed by his armies. While Ron Marz characterises her as talented and resourceful, Arwyn discovers early that wanting to do something and carrying it out have a gulf between them.
When he drew Sojourn it was relatively early in Greg Land’s career, and the artwork supplies better storytelling than a lot of his subsequent work. There’s a solidity, the people have a life to them, moving easily, and colourist Caesar Rodriguez adds a depth. Land’s designs for the undead Mordath and the Trolls, with their glowing green eyes, are suitably gruesome, while Arwyn is attractive, but distinguished from the standard glamorous fantasy heroine by virtue of having practical clothing, although she seems to be growing out of it. Her being accompanied by a black alsatian dog is a nice touch.
The CrossGen creations are united through each lead character being powered up via a sigil leaving a distinctive glowing scar, but Arywn is instead presented with Ayden’s bow, which sharpens her natural archery talent, and it’s Mordath who’s received the power upgrade. Marz and Land keep things fast moving, and by the end of From the Ashes Arwyn has an ally in fellow archer Gareth, who takes on much of the narration, and has accepted the mission to unite the five arrow fragments, although the final pages cast doubt on the effectiveness. The pace is sometimes at the cost of avoiding explanations, with Arwyn told things must be so, and to say any more would be inadvisable. That reads as a cop-out, but doesn’t fundamentally alter the principles of Sojourn, which has been efficiently set on its way, with The Dragon’s Tale to follow.
Bonus pages feature Land’s comments on his designs and career accompanied by several pages of illustrations.