This was a review request from a while ago, but I’m making headway! This was also in this year’s SPFBO competition, and although cut, was given a very positive review pointing out that it almost made it as a semi-finalist (Swiffer had a strong batch this year). Swiffer’s Review
This story starts out with three “hunters” who are tracking someone down for their khan, a rogue commander that’s trying to flee the Steppes, and their khan wants him killed or brought back. Some would deem this mission a suicide mission since this commander isn’t a normal “mark’, he’s not just a petty thief or criminal, he’s highly trained and very lethal. Of the three, the oldest brought has “volunteered” them for this job and the others take it with varying reluctance. During their trek, they get caught in a supernatural storm, and lightning strikes two of the three hunters. Bataar, the Khan’s biological son, and Subei, one of the two brothers. It wasn’t a normal lightning strike either, as if in slow motion, the scars from the strike slowly crawled over their bodies leaving them in agonizing pain. The wounds were glowing blue and they were in so much pain they passed out. Upon waking, they find themselves with a new power, one that can be overwhelming and cause them to do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. A raging need to kill when provoked, and a new power that allows them to throw balls of electricity at the enemy.
It turns out the lightning strike was caused by the death of the Old Father, a man who has been advising the Khan’s for six generations. Up until this point, the Old Father had been containing the bloodrage, a kind of curse, all to himself to try and spare the land from its woes. He can’t continue anymore though, he’s too weak, he’s too tired, and the bloodrage has eaten him from the inside out. He commits suicide, and when he does, his power is dispersed throughout the land. These people who have new powers are known as “the heirs to the ancestors”, the power within them considered to be the power of the ancestors.
Instead of tracking down the errant commander, the Khan has switched his mission for the three young men. Their new mission is to track down all of the other heir’s to the ancestors and kill them, absorbing their power. The Khan wants them to “transcend”, becoming as powerful as the Old Father himself. The first place they are sent to is the empire of Zhong, their longtime rival, and to take out all of their soldiers recently imbued with new powers. A woman named Ghula joins them, a woman that all three deeply respect, she’s known as “The Conquerer of Sandar, The Breaker of Jitan”, she’s joining them to help train them for their journey ahead, and she’s not to be messed with.
This book had a lot of really neat world building, the society they live in considers death to be a better fate than fleeing and submersing themselves in the “weaker” cultures. They consider honor to be paramount and living in one place in a soft bed with luxuries all around them is considered the death of the soul. Better to be tracked down and killed while they are still “Ghengari” in their hearts.
The writing style was a bit more modern than I had expected given the setting, but I don’t mind that kind of thing, it amuses me to hear a character say “well, shit” rather than more dated dialogue. It was pretty fast-paced throughout, not a lot of filler going on which is nice if you’re looking for a quicker read. It was also pretty clean, I didn’t catch many errors so it got a solid 12.5/15 for the writing section. Cursing aplenty in this as well, with 58 fucks given it’s not for those that want to avoid cursing.
These aren’t exactly classic hero-like protagonists, from the start they are sent out to kill enemies just to gain power. It was interesting to watch Subei fight his conscience when it came to tracking these people down and killing them. Fighting someone in a war is one thing, tracking down a known criminal yet another. Killing a man lying in bed whose only ‘crime’ was being endowed with the same powers they had rubbed him the wrong way. But, all three want to prove themselves, make a name for themselves and for their children. And once the bloodrage takes hold, they lose all control of themselves, enjoying the heartbreak and terror they cause along the way. Those cultures outside of their own are universally looked at as inferior, especially if that culture values peace, so if you’re looking for more of a grey character this could be a book for you.
- non western setting
- greyer characters
- lots of magic
- horse culture
- quick paced
- training of powers/skills
- Plot: 11.5/15
- Characters: 10.5/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 77/100