This is the book I have craved for a long time but didn’t know it yet. This ticked all my boxes making it likely to make my top twenty SFF books for the year.
This is a dual POV with one of the characters, Nuru, who belongs to the bottom-most caste, the dregs of society known as the Growers is young, downtrodden, but still a pretty powerful street sorcerer. The other POV, Akachi, is a member of one of the upper-class castes, the Priests. There’s a very strict caste system in this world accompanied by harshly implemented rules. Bastian society is founded upon and revolves around human sacrifices. To please the Gods, people who are considered to be ‘sinners’ are brought to an altar to be cut open and bled out. Each caste is expected to stick to their own, intermarrying and living their whole lives in one Ring of the city generation after generation. Those who are sacrificed feed the Gods. All of the blood from the entire city funnels downwards towards the God Ring. It’s believed that to be sacrificed is to bring the souls closer to the Gods. Akachi, one of our MCs, is taught that it’s “beautiful” “divine” “cleansing” “holy” to do this sort of duty.
Religion rules over everything in Bastion. It’s clear that this was once Earth or a very Earth-like planet that has since been mostly destroyed and is now in a post-apocalyptic state. There is only one city of man left, and it was gifted to them by the Gods after their near extinction. It’s enormous, it’s 250 miles across taking over a month to get from one edge to the opposite edge. Bastion is made entirely from seamless stonework that was created by the Gods. There was an event known as The Last War where billions of people died, and with them, some of the gods. The Gods require human worship and blood sacrifice to stay alive, so Bastion is also the last chance the Gods have for survival as well. There’s a war coming, a war between the Gods, and therefore it means a war between the Rings.
The Growers are becoming increasingly violent as their oppression becomes absolute. Any items of self-expression, education, tools beyond those necessary to farm, proper bedding/clothing/furniture is strictly forbidden and will result in whippings or executions. They aren’t allowed to raise their own children, or even to use tools to help them walk if injured. Injured Growers retreat into hovels to starve to death. That’s how complete their suppression has become. It hasn’t always been that harsh, though. Smaller offenses are being treated with harsher consequences. Where human sacrifice used to be occasional throughout the year, now it could legitimately be considered a slaughter.
The Priests have their own ring, and they are the ones responsible for carrying out death by sacrificial altar using specific daggers that capture the murdered souls. Priests are one of the only classes allowed to use magic, and there are a bunch of different types of sorcerers that are able perform various types of magic Depending on which god a priest serves they will have different responsibilities. Akachi is a part of the Cloud Serpent pantheon, and as a priest of the God of the Hunt, he’s responsible for finding those that break the law. He had a vision of a girl with a scarred face who brings death and destruction to Bastion. He thinks it’s his holy duty to find this girl and bring her in before she can carry out her plan. He has an absolutely fascinating character arc that focused on devotion and obedience when it goes against what you feel is right. He was deeply disturbed by the prospects of being the person responsible for sacrificing to the Gods. He thought of it as murder and a part of him loathed it.
The writing in this was fantastic. It has a unique style that’s both breezy and immersive which is tough to pull off. The dialogue felt smooth and natural. There was essentially no info dumping, it was all done via snippet of in-world book at the beginning of each chapter. I found each small paragraph absolutely fascinating and I wanted to know more. He had the characters ask themselves questions that can engage the reader to think more deeply about what could be in store in later books. If I had a complaint, it would be that the POVs switched a little too fast in the beginning. I prefer to engage a little more with the first character I encounter (unless it’s a prologue) so I can get well and immersed in their storyline before I move on. Since there were only two POV’s, though, it was much less jarring than some other books that frequently shift POVs.
This book pulls no punches. It’s pretty grim, so if you’re someone who doesn’t like for books to be overly bloody, tragedies/depressing character arcs, full of swears, or gory – maybe pass.
I think I’ve made this review rather long enough
post-apocalypse, gods are real, frequently used and categorical type magic systems, lots of magic, immersive writing, dual povs, darker tone, female povs, sorcerer povs, narcotics in fantasy, really good fucking book.
- Plot: 13.5/15
- Characters: 13.5/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 90.75/100 or 5/5 stars on GR