Weeee! I loved this book, it was my first 5 star in a while, it’s currently still in the running for the SPFBO contest and reading so many awesome books in this contest is making it tough who to root for. I have several favorite books that are in the same blogger grouping, and every time I check up on the current standings I get a little anxious. This will be a book I watch to see what happens for sure.
- Wynn: An older kid being dropped off at a labor mine by his father, he gets dropped into a very gritty and rough world where dying is a daily threat.
- Kharios: A student at a temple to the Forge Father, the world just seems to shit on this guy.
The two main characters take a long time between POV switches so you really get to know whats going on with them before you switch to the other character. They are also evenly divided, you get to know both equally well.
There are a number of side characters, they both have teams of people that work with them down in the mines, and there are a number of priests who work at the temple, some of them are likeable, some of them you hate, but most importantly they all feel like real people.
You follow two different characters, one living above a mine as a priests apprentice in the temple, and one living below the ground in a vast mine, essentially a slave. The only way you can get out of the mine is if you “test out” by passing a test set by the priests of the temple. If you fail you’re stuck in the mine until you die, they say you can get a second chance but no one ever does.
The main character in the mine struggles daily with finding enough ore to get enough tally chips, if you don’t make your tally you get publicly whipped and there’s a lot going on as far as world building around this point.
The main character in the temple has an insufferably cruel priest as a mentor/teacher, his daily struggle is avoiding getting on this guys bad side because the priest can ruin his life in an instant by sending him back down into the mines.
One of the few early on magical elements is something called The Utterdark, it’s somewhere the miners go to throw out the waste from the mine, but no one ever goes alone. The darkness will call out to you and make you want to throw yourself over the ledge, new people aren’t allowed to approach at first because they tend to commit suicide.
This book has a huge focus on religion, and so there are a lot of priestly figures and rituals/chanting going on in this book. It’s a pretty unique religion, I’ve never read a book with a Blacksmithing god, not like The Smith in ASOIAF who is a blacksmith representing a God of Strength, but like this is the only god these people worship. Many of the rituals revolve around forging weapons and it was super new and refreshing for me.
I started this book and read for about an hour to get a sense for what it was then set it down for a bit because I was already in the middle of like 7 books, but when I picked it back up I read it within a day, this was one that I had a hard time putting down. Things really pick up though around 65%, more magical elements are introduced into a world where it was on the edges and not mentioned much. This book went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, and omgggggg there was a twist around 90% that I didn’t see coming at all.
This world was so well thought out, I absolutely got a feel for what it was like to live in this mine, and the temple the priests worshiped in was so cool to read about, it’s endless halls and no one knows why they are there, the priests didn’t build them, they just live there.
The book starts out with this: “Alone, alone in a terrible place”. I’ve read a bunchof moderately dark books recently, and since I’ve spent the majority of the year with comedies and more light hearted books I suppose it’s about time. I loved how real this book felt, there were real consequences to fucking up, and side characters have no plot armor, and side characters you may like won’t make it. There are a number of twists in this book and none of them are pleasant surprises.
This book is pretty gritty, one of the main characters has been molested, cursing, violence and more grim plotlines don’t make for a happy tale here.
- People who like multi-pov, but not a ton of pov’s
- People who like unique religions and cultures
- People looking for ‘something different’
- People who like a slow introduction to magic in the world
- People who like books that don’t give characters plot armor, real consequences to failure
- People who like moderately dark, this isn’t *super* dark, but it’s sure as fuck not happy either
- Don’t read this if you don’t like the word fuck
- Be aware there’s an abuse substory to one of the main characters POVs, and there’s sexual abuse from a priest to multiple students