When you picture a fantasy author like Verne or Tolkien you picture them hunched over a grand writing desk, inking their stories by candlelight. But would your mind immediately go to Cambridge, Ontario?  

Local author Frank Nemeth published Isten Kardja: The Withering on Mar. 24, 2023. He kept his readers and fans updated on the book’s process when it first started in 2021.  

Nemeth’s debut novel is at both times rooted while taking the reader on a fantastical journey through a world filled with witches, renegades and wizards.  

For book lovers who want to dip their toes into the world of high fantasy, this is a great novel to start off with.  It is fun to read the book in tandem with Nemeth’s blog.  

As a reader, it feels like you are interacting with the author as the story you are reading is being written.  

It is refreshing to read a fantasy book that keeps elements of the real world. As a reader of mostly slice-of-life stories, it can be hard to wrap your head around the expansive worlds in novels like Lord of the Rings.  

For Canadian readers who are used to reading novels set in New York, London and other metropolitan areas it is also refreshing to be able to read about Cambridge, Ontario as a setting for a fantasy novel.  

Why should Canadian literature be confined to the likes of Lucy Maude Montgomery and the idealist countryside of Anne of Green Gables?  Novels like Nemeth’s help Canadian readers push the boundaries of what Canadian fiction means.  

It does not always have to either take place in Toronto or the Prairies. Canada is a big country after all, and there are so many stories still to be told. 

The realm of Vengriya is being devastated by plagues. Darelian Fenndragon, a half-breed shaman, challenges her prince to summon heroes to seek out and destroy the evil behind corruption.  

However, their efforts are thwarted before they begin when their only hope gets ripped back to our reality. Young Tibor, who wakes from a coma in a small Ontario town, now has to figure out a way back Vengriya before it is too late.  

Kardja studied Political Science at the University of Waterloo and worked in the private sector for more than 27 years. He was encouraged to put ink to paper with his ideas that long brewed in his head.  

He uses Isten Kardja to reimagine the heroic characters of his youth. 

The personable Nemeth keeps his readers on the edge of fantasy and real life in this debut novel. The stories and characters depicted are based on the experiences of his youth. Many hours of his time spent playing role playing games, reading comic books, science fiction and fantasy novels. 

It is difficult to read this novel and not be engrossed with the characters and their rich backstories. As a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, reading through the book felt like watching an epic table-top quest unfold.  

If you do not usually pick novels in the high fantasy genre because of the excessive lore and overly complicated names, Nemeth has found an excellent balance in painting a picture of the world his heroes live in while keeping the story going.  

What sets his book apart is the engaging way Nemeth writes his characters. When Tibor is pulled away from the fantastical land of Vengriya and back to Cambridge Ontario, readers feel the dread and shame he feels for not being able to help the world he calls home.  

For fellow bibliophiles who are intimidated by the high fantasy genre, Nemeth’s website is a perfect accompaniment to his novel. The site contains background information and photos of the different sites that are featured in the novel.  

He also provides pictures of the real-life places featured in the novel. 

 In case you are also a reader who struggles with keeping track of characters and their backstories, Nemeth’s site also includes a “Heroes, Rogues and Villains” gallery.  

For seasoned fantasy fans, Isten Kardja is like coming back home to a familiar environment after a long day.  

As with many greats works of fantasy, the author makes use of fantastical elements as a metaphor for real-world issues and events. The Avar people have fled from war and persecution and have reached the fertile plains of the Capathian Basin.  

After years of conflicts and in-fighting, the Avar Lands were invaded from the East by the forces of the Imperium.  

Once a lawless period passes, things began to improve when the Imperium unexpectedly withdrew and took their customs, icons and troops with them. Things seemed better, but then the Plagues began. The reader may take this as an analysis on the harms of colonialism and capitalism, and the real human toll war takes on the world.