Esmes Indie Higlights/SPFBO: The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly

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This is a current semi finalist for Ventureadlaxre, I’ve read a bunch of books from this grouping and it’s cool to watch the competition stack up and see what kinds of decisions these bloggers are facing. This author is one of the more seasoned authors in the grouping already having many books under his belt and some of them under traditional publishing. .

I audiobooked this and it’s narrated by Michael Kramer, and as always Kramer gave a fantastic performance – although a few times I wondered why Dalinar was in this book, I guess I’ve listened to Stormlight Archives too many times. I have the ebook too and I searched through it to reference how to spell things, but some of these names and places could be wrong.


Characters:

  • Tyr Tejohn Treygar: Also known as Stoneface, this guy is probably my favorite character because he reminds me so much of Davos Seaworth. He’s loyal past sense even if he doesn’t agree with his King, he’s an “upstart” being a Tyr who was low born initially. He’s older and more mature and that’s one of my favorite kinds of POVs.  A Tyr is pretty much the same thing as a Lord, most have lands and titles but Treygar doesn’t. He’s gruff and a good warrior and is a great asset to Lar the new King who’s found himself being invaded by an unknown force.
  • Cazia Freewell: A young scholar, a hostage to Lars family since her parents were traitors and can’t be trusted. She has a lot of power and knows a ton of spells and it’s fun watching her use a ton of magic later on in the book.  She loves being a spy and slinking around hearing things she shouldn’t be privy to, so she’s a fun POV to find out what’s going on with other characters. She has a really awesome character arc at the end when she ignores all the rules of magic.
  • Col Freewell: Cazia’s brother, a lot of stuff happens with this character but much of it is spoilery.
  • Lar Italga: Prince turned King after the invasion of the Grunts killed his parents. A drunkard at the start but he has decent growth/reveals and I came around to his character.
  • Vilavivianna aka Ivy: a young Indregai princess betrothed to Lar, more mature than you’d expect from someone her age, she’s only 12 years old which is nice because more immature and whiny characters tend to get under my skin.
  • Arla Grimfield: an archer and a scout, I really liked the fact that more than a few characters in this series are older, she’s in her mid 40’s but not to be messed with. She has a nice backstory and I really liked her as a side character. I’m always down for older characters and they are pretty well represented with Arla and Treygar.

Plot:

The book opens with a ceremony for The Evening People who are these beings from another world kind of thing, they appear through these portals and give gifts that change the human society to it’s core. These gifts are magical and create huge leaps in technology for the realm. Gifts in the past have given them healing spells, water purification spells, spells allowing them to make carts fly that work kind of like flying cars.

But, this time monsters came through the portal instead and start destroying the entire city, most of the Scholars, the King, and Queen and most of the city were wiped out.

The main cast has to flee and gather support to help fight these beasts from beyond the portal and figure out what happened to The Evening People. Nobody knows if they were leading the assault campaign, or were already conquered themselves by these creatures. The monsters that came through are blue/purple ape like monsters that rip people to shreds and work in packs.

Strategies against these monsters take up a lot of time in the book, and there’s a lot of action revolving around these guys wreaking havoc wherever they go.

There’s a lot of politics going on as well, many of the Kings friends are hostage children of traitors who had betrayed his father, there’s lots of Tyrs and children and all that jazz.

“Tyrs” are kind of like “Lords”, and keeping them all in line and under the control of the royal family also takes up a fair bit of page time, so if you’re into politics and Houses I think you’d like that aspect of the book.

 


 

Worldbuilding:

The Evening People and the Portals are mostly mysterious, with much of the book only eluding to things that have happened in the past with not a lot going on with them in the present.

The monsters were named Grunts and there’s actually a good backstory about what these creatures can do and why, and fighting them is a big pain in the ass – they’re stronger than people, faster than people, and have a fervor for killing.

The Grunts aren’t the only monsters in this world either, there are giant snakes that live in the Indregai lands, and there are giant eagles that are big enough to drop trees on prey to kill them, people included. There are also bug like people who have monstrous mounts that they ride… the further you get into the book the more fantastical it becomes.

The Gifts are one of the more interesting bits of magic in the world, different gifts allow people to do different things, the gifts can also be modified and invention/innovation is how a lot of the scholars spend their time. The First Gift given was a Healing spell and it’s one of the most complex which can be used to create Healing Stones for people to lay down and go to sleep on and wake up healed. The Fifth Gift can purify water but a cool modification can turn it into a weapon which can turn enemies brains to water.  The Sixth and Eleventh gifts can alter rock and stone, the Fourteenth Gift is a light spell etc.

This is another world where magic has a cost, and scholars can be “hallowed out” if they cast too much magic and basically lose their minds. They’re usually locked up after having their hands or fingers cut off (you need to do special hand movements for spells).  I’m typically a fan of magic having a cost, I think it offers an interesting challenge and makes things more exciting when you can’t just blast your way through with unlimited magic at no cost to yourself.


Pacing/Prose/Tone:

Instead of cursing this book uses “Great Way” and other in-world curses, so it’ll appeal to people who find that immersive and good world building.

The tone was sort of tense and anxious through the whole thing, there’s an unknown force invading and much of what’s going on is a mystery.

The pacing is okay, the beginning was a bit slower because there are a lot of characters and I wasn’t sure at first who the main character was because so many were being introduced. Once I got to about 30% and got the hang of the characters things started to speed up, and by the end of the book a lot was going on working kind of like a snowball by the end. The end was also sort of a cliffhanger, something brand new happens right at the end of the book so if you’re looking for a clean wrap up at the end or prefer stand alone books this is def part of a series. I’ve marked this one down as one of the series I’ll be revisiting when I’m done with this challenge.


 

Audience:

  • For people who like multi POV
  • For people who like medium length books 424 pages
  • For people who like lots of magic, world revolves around magic
  • monsters
  • For people who like fights and battle sequences
  • For people who like an old school fantasy feel
  • For people who like complex world building
  • For people who prefer “cleaner” writing you can give to kids or for those who don’t like books with a lot of foul language
  • For people who prefer series vs stand alone

 

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