I’m starting to go through all of the semi-finalists for SPFBO, I’m going to try and get to as many as I can, we’ll see how many I actually have time to read. This one does have pretty big tie-ins to Shadow of the Exile but can be read separately if you haven’t read the first series. I audiobooked this, so if the names aren’t in the blurb they’re probably spelled incorrectly.
Right away you know you’re in a fantasy book with talk of sorcerer’s, Old Gods, wards, demons etc – so for people looking for a lot of old school sorcerer shit, this one could be for you.
One of the main characters, Niklaus is an immortal warrior that’s a devoted servant of his Goddess, Silva Kalisias. He’s worked for her for a long time but doesn’t always know her motives, but doesn’t seem to care. Early on in his intro one of his peers, Volkmar was murdered. It wasn’t an easy death either, the room Niklaus found him in smelled of sulfur and piss, a sure sign something evil had tortured him to death. It really set the tone for the whole book which has a lot of blood, death, and demons in it. Niklaus is more than a little obsessed with his goddess and wants to take his power one step further and become a god himself so that he can finally be with his goddess in the way he’s wanted to for so long.
Aldrik is a reluctant sorcerer who has also been a devoted subject of a different god. This world has a multitude of gods/goddesses and each sect of priests is a bit different – and they don’t always cooperate or get along. Aldrik’s sect thinks of Niklaus’s goddess as a goddess only for the deviant and misguided. Aldrik hasn’t been treated well by his own bretheren however, they are a sect that’s very wary of sorcery and tends to look down on people that use it. They’re hypocrites though, because they continously ask for Aldrik’s help for tasks they cant do themselves. Time and again he’s tried to prove himself worthy only to be left on the outside of the circle looking in. Finally, his superiors find him worthy enough to take on a Relic, something of ancient power that allows the wielder to see memories from long dead priests. They give one to Aldrik and send him on a mission to scope out a ruin, possibly the only one of its kind, and bring back any artifacts he may find. It’s a dangerous mission since there are dead-eyes inhabiting the ruin that have been giving a local village hell over the past few months. Since it’s dangerous they are assigning him a team to help – and one of those members is Niklaus.
Reaper’s are an amalgamation of human and animal parts, thankfully the knowledge of how to make them has been lost to time, but there are still a few lurking around. Screams and shouts start and Aldric has to prepare himself for the worst. Even after years of serving Aldrik still doesn’t feel comfortable with his abilities.
Aldrik can’t heal himself, his powers can only be used to help others. He believes that Dusk Tide magic is evil, every time he channels it he feels dirty and like he’s betraying his church – as such he hasn’t ranked much above apprentice level.
Kurio, a thief who steals from wealthy citizens, the twist here is that she didn’t grow up on the streets, she didn’t grow up poor, or have family members in the thieving business – she was a noble that ran away. She has no regrets either, she never wanted to be paraded around like a doll and expected to marry whoever her parents told her to – and more importantly, her father and brothers were cold and abusive. She shows her nature when someone has found out her secret and tries blackmails her into working for her, he threatens to turn her back over to her family… so she killed him. She’s not one who would just go out and murder people for no reason, but she will definitely defend herself against assholes. This killing though puts her in quite the predicament, killing one of her own could result in a lashing or a death sentence, and it’s not clear which one it would be in this case. She’s going to have to find a way to run and go undercover or risk being found by the Night Shadows. A romance starts early in her chapters, one of her employer’s acquaintances, Gannon, takes an interest in her and says he wants to meet up with her sometime after she delivered the strange little box she was tasked with stealing. She doesn’t know why he likes her so much, and suspects that he could be a rather nefarious person. She knows that he has to know she broke into his house and knows his secrets, and yet she meets with him anyway, unable to help her curiosity.
All three of these POV’s come together around 30% through the book when they all end up interested in the same ruins with the dead-eyes. They later discover that the long vanquished demon-god Nysrog may be on the rise again with the help of the Tainted Cabal. Despite being vanquished thousands of years ago, devoted followers have kept the faith going and are scheming to bring him to power again.
There is a lot of magic in this one, which is to be expected since a couple of the POV’s are sorcerers. Most of the magic is rather mysterious with runes, wards, healing powers that don’t have hard rules to follow, just rough guidelines. There are a LOT of dark fantasy monsters in this, so if you like demons and monsters this one could appeal to you. There are Raiths, which are an ancient race, more myth than reality – extremely powerful, extraordinarily deadly but on the decline. There are demons that can be summoned from other realms and more often than not overpower their summoners and kill them. There are “dead-eyes” which are kind of a like a vicious goblin-ish race? They eat people.
At the start of the book, the first few chapters are all from a different POV, but each chapter was long enough that you really got to sink your teeth into who they were which is always a benefit. However, you don’t know how these stories are going to interact in the beginning so in that respect it’s still kind of a slow burn that builds on itself and goes faster as you get further into the book.
I liked this one a bit more because I had a few different flavors of characters rather than just one POV like in Shadow of the Exile. I tend to prefer multi-pov over single pov. I also liked this narrator for the audiobook much better than the last one which helped a lot.
- epic high fantasy
- darker fantasy
- lots of action and blood
- demons, monsters
- lots of magic
- sorcerer pov
- multi pov
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 12.5/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10