Wizardoms: Eye of Obscurance
Eye of Obscurance is a story about assassination. Most people love a good assassin story, except possibly the person on the wrong end of the knife.
I’ll admit I wasn’t blown away by the cover. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just a bit stock-arty. Maybe I’m spoiled?
They say you shouldn’t judge by the cover anyway, and in this case that holds true. In Eye of Obscurance, Kohanek has created a fantasy world where the wizards, wielders of unimaginable power, have taken control. Rather than the odd cliché of a wizard advising the king, in this case the wizards are the ruling class.
Eye of Obscurance is a tale of murder, revenge, and intrigue told from multiple points of view around the planned assassination of the wizard lord, Taladain. Kohanek has some interesting takes on the nature of magic, blurring the lines a little between magic and religious worship, with a dollop of human sacrifice tossed in for good measure. It’s a fun mixture which works well with his worldbuilding and supports the motivations of the various characters, of which there are more than a few.
Eye of Obscurance brings together a thief, an acrobat, a mysterious outcast, and a “princess”. Although the crux of the story revolves around the thief, Jace, and the acrobat, Rhoa, there is more than enough action to go around
The worldbuilding in this story is possibly my favourite aspect of it. At the most macro level there’s nothing terribly innovative about Kohanek’s world. All of the classic fantasy elements are there, from magic and wizards, to elves and dwarves, even a functional thieves’ guild. It’s what he does with it that’s clever. Legends of a struggle between ancient gods, and an intriguing creation myth, are slowly dripped into the story, and it’s not until almost two thirds of the way through that things begin to coalesce in your mind.
I had more than one “ah hah!” moment, and as a reader that’s never going to be a bad thing.
The characters are well done and believable, right down to the sexism and arrogance of the thief, Jace and the naivety of the outcast Rawk. There is a very clear class divide between wizards and non-magical folk and the disdain is palpable.
The magic system itself is interesting and, despite the explanation of the mechanics delivered to the reader, left vague enough to leave Kohanek room to play around without tripping over his own rules.
The sexism is a bit hard to swallow. Jace is basically a lech and it feels like there isn’t a single “curve” he fails to notice in the entire book. He’s arrogant and, frankly, I found him very annoying. This isn’t to say he isn’t well written. He’s a convincing, well-rounded, character that I was cheering against for most of the story.
The character of Rawk is probably where the story fell down for me. There are a few points when he’s just a bit too naïve and he doesn’t add a lot, or really anything, to the plot. Given Kohanek’s publishing history, and it looks like there are at least six books in this series, I would expect his story will come out more in later books, but for the purposes of this one he felt a little superfluous.
This is a well-crafted book that will appeal to multiple audiences. If you’re looking for something ground-breaking, that challenges stereotypes and your own preconceptions, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. But… if you’re in the market for a good old-fashioned fantasy, dripping with action, intrigue, and snark, then you’re probably looking in the right place.
This is the second best book I’ve read thus far in the competition, the other already pipped as a semi-finalist, I’m putting this through to our next round and am curious to see how it does.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XQFRTB7/
Author page: https://jeffreylkohanek.com/