I really loved this one! It’s been picked by Kitty G as one of her semi finalists and she gave it a 5 star review as well!
This is a long ass review – you can just read the Audience section at the bottom for a TLDR if this is too wall of text for you 🙂
Here’s her review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_tmkj4dK0Q
This is a world where demons and spirits are a very real threat, and being possessed and needing an exorcism is something that’s a legitimate problem for Friars to solve.
There are dozens of characters in this book and a ton of POV’s, but one of the major threads of the story was following a Friar and his Acolyte as they go through the realm and banish demons and perform exorcisms. There’s a ton of horrifying things that can happen when there’s a Rent in the world that allows spirits from the Other Side to possess people.
There’s a bigger threat looming and the older Friar can sense it coming, he’s gathering evidence of a serious threat to the world when an ancient relic was stolen. The relic is a piece of tablet that’s been shattered, but when brought together they can open the gates to Gehenna, which is this worlds hell, and Rues (their God) will no longer have control over demonkind, and the world could end.
While all of this is going on there’s Jarls pronouncing themselves Princes and wars being fought. There’s knights and want-to-be knights roaming the land looking for fights to be won in the name of justice.
There’s a high born womans POV that’s about her betrothal to another kingdoms heir to form alliances because their realm is in jeopardy. There’s also a POV of her handmaid.
There’s a POV that focuses around a knight trying to form alliances for his father in a different realm.
There’s a POV of a King trying to keep his realm together.
There’s a POV of a young squire who desperately wants to be a knight, but has a serious temper problem and is low born, he’s a squire to an older surlier knight.
There’s so much shit going on you guys, oh my god. I really can’t even summarize well in a decent amount of space, if I were to try and cover half of it this post would be a novella.
- Adelko – he’s a young acolyte with a thirst for knowledge, he doesn’t have any desire to fight but repeatedly holds his own against serious demons and spirits. He’s probably my favorite character, he gets a lot of page time so you get to know him well and I like his overall demeanor. He has a good grounding in morals and in general he was easy to relate to.
- Horskram – Adelko’s teacher. He’s older and pretty stern and strict, he takes his duties very seriously and he’s genuinely pious, he doesn’t like overly prideful behavior or any actions that would be ‘sinful’. He’s very powerful as well, one of the more powerful characters in the book, he’s able to stand up to a lot of ghastly and powerful demons.
- Vaskarian – a hot headed squire who is constantly getting himself into trouble, and in turn gets his Knight in so much shit. He grows a bit through the book which was nice to see, he got into fights less and less. His dream is to become a knight, but it’s unlikely since he’s low born.
- Sir Branas – Vaskarians Knight, he’s older, has a pretty sad backstory, and puts up with a lot of crap in the name of honor and duty, he doesn’t want Vaskarian around and does it because he has to, it creates an interesting dynamic that opposes the easier relationship of Adelko and Horskram (despite some fiascos).
- Adhelina – she’s being married off to a neighbors heir to help secure her fathers lands, she’s absolutely furious about it and is making attempts to avert it even if it means abandoning her inheritance and running off to The Empire.
- Braxus – a knight who’s father is planning on rebelling against his king, he’s slightly arrogant, loves the ladies, and is a decent knight overall. He’s been sent on a mission to secure allies for his fathers rebellion.
- Sea Wizard – super creepy antagonist who seems to have his hand in everything, ruthless and evil he’s seeking to destroy everything
- Kruhlheim – one of the rebelling Jarls that’s declared himself a prince
There’s actually about a handful of other POV’s or maybe more, but these are the ones that I felt got the most page time.
The first time these POV’s really start to merge is around 30%, so it takes a little bit of time, but they all intermix and merge at some point, although new POV’s were still being introduced at 83% into the book – you’re in for a super complex world.
I feel like this review is super long already, and I haven’t even gotten to the world building which was on an epic scale. With 650 pages and so many POV’s, there was a great deal of world building
I think some of my favorite chapters were the ones where the characters were lost in the Fay forest, Tintagael, that played tricks on their minds. They’d cross a bridge and voices would beckon for them to jump, there were monsters and ghosts and hags.
The Fay themselves are interesting, being of the Other Side but having no allegiance to demons or angels – still feared among people though. They are fickle and are likely to kill you or have you kill yourself in some trap.
There are levels of demons and an enormous amount of lore surrounding the religions of this world, Abaddon being their Devil of sorts and they have similar tales, both having lost a battle for heaven and been confined to a hell.
There are different orders of priests that all connect to the Mother Temple, and they don’t always get a long with each other. There was a Purge in the last generation that wiped out many of the Argolian Order after they were falsely accused of witchcraft, tortured and burned to death.
Magic in this world is forbidden, it can create Rents in the world which weakens the hold Rues has over the demons, and they can slip through to the mortal world. There is no such thing as good magic because of this, and the Friars hunt down warlocks, witches and other magic users as well as demons. The seven schools of magic that used to be practiced were: Thaumaturgy, Transformation, Enchantment, Scrying, Alchemy, Necromancy, Demonology.
Elder Wizards used to rule the Known World back before the Breaking of the World – Rues punished the Known World because of an Elder Wizard who created a Tablet that could open the gates of Gehenna and release the demons – this is the tablet that was broken into pieces and the pieces are getting stolen.
There’s also a ton of geography and House war stuff going on – the world felt huge and almost endless. There’s realms that were only talked about as being far flung lands where pagans who worshiped old gods lived, and it’s hinted that maybe the next book would go there.
I always hesitate to call things grim dark because the meaning fluctuates from person to person, but with so much of the book revolving around demons and possessions and people dying and wars going on, I’d say it’s borderline. It wasn’t overbearingly grim dark where everything is horrible and gloomy but there’s a definite possibility that things could go terribly wrong and quickly if the antagonist can’t get dealt with.
The pacing could be slower for some, there is SO MUCH world building, and it can get really, really dense. I flew through it in 3 days, but I would imagine many would take a lot longer, especially since it’s 650 pages. I felt compelled to find out what was going on, and even though there were a ton of characters I felt like so many were fleshed out and so different from one another that it made it very enjoyable.
The writing was super clean and it absolutely felt like a well edited and well polished work, I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of writing. There were also a lot of words I had to look up – avuncular, adumbration, salubrious, soccour, pyrrhic etc.
- For people who love intense, intricate, complex world building of every kind, cultural, geography, House wars, ancient lore, religion, politics, civil wars, etc
- For people who love a bunch of POV’s
- For people who love exorcisms, demons, spirits, Fay and monsters
- For people who love old school wizard mysterious magic
- For people who like magic to have consequences
- For people who like long books, 650 pages
- For people who like series, not a stand alone
When I reach the end of this I’ll be picking 30ish favorites, my ‘semifinalists’ if you will, and I’ll be giving away 50 ebooks on r/fantasy when the time comes. I can confidently say this will be one of them. I already have about a dozen in mind 😀
When I hit 50 books I’ll be announcing my first 15!