Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: Akiri: The Sceptor of Xarbaal by Brian D Anderson, and Steven Savile

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This was part of Fantasy Factions grouping and has since been eliminated, but received fairly positive review calling it a solid book. Review here:


Akiri is the son of a man who defied his King because he had gone mad with power. King Zebel got his hands on the Sceptor of Xarbaal, which is an ancient relic that belonged to the God of Death, Xarbaal. Akiris father hid the artefact away from the King, and so Zebel had him killed and then raised his son to be absolutely and fanatically loyal to him.

Akiri is absolute in his loyalty, which is ensured through an Oathstone, which connects Akiri with the King who has powerful magic. Under this Oathstone it’s impossible for Akiri to tell a lie to the King, but he is also granted serious powers through this stone as well, keeping him connected to the Kings magic. He’s faster, stronger, and a better fighter than most men in the world, and can defeat that which is thought to be undefeatable.

Eventually, the King sends him on a mission to trick his estranged uncle into thinking he’s abandoned the King in order to rekindle relationships with his family. Up until this point, Akiri has no memory of the past and doesn’t know or care why his father died and has had no contact with any family member. In order to do this, his connection with the Oathstone is broken, and his powers are diminished and he becomes a normal man who’s good with a sword.

Along the way, he meets a dragon which awakens old powers within him, and it begins his journey of doubt – does he stay loyal to the king and betray his uncle, or does he have a change of heart?

Final Score: 7.5/10


This is a mostly single POV story with a brief interlude chapter from another character you’re already acquainted with.

Akiri is a surly fellow without a sense of humor and doesn’t do much in the way of leisure activity – not really a hobby guy. Akiri’s main focus in life is his devotion to his King. He gets one task done and then starts on the next without hesitation or thought. If the King asks him to do something, it gets done regardless of who gets in the way. I wouldn’t call him a “bloodthirsty” person, if he can get around killing people who don’t deserve it, he’ll avoid it if possible. However, he doesn’t put a ton of effort into avoiding it, and he has no qualms at all mowing people down if he deems it necessary for his end goal. This isn’t a character where killing people “haunts” him, he even views death as a mercy for many of those he kills and wouldn’t want to live another lifestyle.

Once the dragon gets into the picture his views start to change, mostly because the King has strictly outlawed dragon riding and has viciously slaughtered all the dragons within his reach, and encourages the slaughter of them elsewhere.

Overall he was an interesting character and would appeal to those looking for serious swordplay and killing.

Final Score: 7/10


World Building:

The Gods appear to be real in this world, and what I found most interesting where these two demons that would visit Akiri in the form of small children. They were creepy and confusing, each claiming that the other was evil and not to listen to them.

Dragons can bind themselves in a way to humans, creating a unique connection that allows for telepathic communication of sorts. The longer the human and dragon are bound together, the more clearly the thoughts come through. At first it was just emotions, but towards the end of the book, small sentences were being formed by the dragon. She’s fiercely loyal to him and has more of a conscience than Akiri does, often forcing him into the “right” decision even if he doesn’t want to.

Humans can bind their souls to demons to create a creepy race called the Volkar which become immortal as long as they feed on the souls of people at the moment of death. Insanely strong and incredibly fast they make for great assassins. They enjoy torturing and playing with their victims and one is sent after Akiri.

Final Score: 8/10


The tone was rather bleak and kind of “dark”, there certainly wasn’t any joking around levity characters. With demons and assassins plaguing him along the way, the pace was pretty quick, there wasn’t a ton of downtime.

Pacing Final Score: 7/10

Writing Final Score: 8/10 


I haven’t read many perspectives on ‘slaves’ that have been brought up in quite this way, but I have read a bunch of slave POV’s before.

The dragon riding thing has been done a lot, but the telepathy between rider and dragon hasn’t been done nearly as often.

Overall the world felt different and new.

Final Score: 8/10


  • For people who like powerful main characters
  • For people who like dragons
  • For people who like animal companions
  • For people who like darker, grittier worlds
  • For people who don’t mind sex scenes and cursing
  • For people who prefer single POV
  • For people who like monsters and demons
  • For people looking for a lot of action
  • For people who like magic filled books


Total Final Score: 45.5/60 or 7.58/10 or 4 stars on goodreads



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