I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi lately, and so while looking at the loads of books to I’ve got to review (sorry everyone… I’m so behind 😔), I thought to myself ‘it’s time for some epic fantasy’! So, here we are.
I did receive a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review of it.
Betrayal casts long shadows – none know this better than Brice Serholm.
As a decorated general in the kingdom’s elite Blade Knights, Brice had to overcome the taint of treason and betrayal to attain his rank. When Brice and a force of Knights are sent on a mission to investigate claims of rebellion in one of Avidar’s provinces, their ship is magically attacked, and the resulting investigation tests every oath Brice swore before his king.
Meanwhile, an inhuman infant escapes the capital’s Slave-Hold, the king’s mistress comes into possession of a unique dagger, and Del’Ahrid, the king’s most trusted First Advisor, begins to question everything he built his honour and life upon.
Events are in motion that will test every man, woman and child – and a conflict is coming that will shake the kingdom to its very foundations.
So begins the Mahaelian Chronicle.
“I’ve started thinking that fate is, how do you say it, a bastard.”
It’s nice to get into some nice, traditional epic fantasy sometimes.
It starts out right in the thick of things, which is sometimes both good and bad to me, because while it never takes any time to ramp up the action, there’s a bunch of stuff going on that we the reader are just sort of dumped into without knowing any of the backstory of. It was a little difficult to understand everything right at first, but it soon finds its way. The backstory is definitely there, but it’s let out a bit at a time as you go. I don’t dislike books that do this, in fact rather the opposite, but it’s tricky to get the beginning right when you start off right in the middle of a major point of action. This one mostly manages the feat of getting it right, but there was still quite a bit of WTFing in the beginning for me. I got over it, don’t worry.
It follows the POV of several characters, so it varies the point of view of everything going down over lots of different characters… about eight or nine of them, some more than others. The main ones that we follow a lot are Brice, the general of the Blade Knights (who are like… the most talented knights of the realm, more or less); Seiria, the king’s concubine; Alun, one of the Blade Knights; Khyber, an Elvayn youth; and Del’Ahrid, the king’s advisor.
The bad thing about following so many points of view, especially in this particular case, is that it’s sometimes very hard to keep track of who is who. I forgot some of their names, to be honest. Brice is pretty easy to pick out, but we sometimes see things from the POV of his subordinates, who refer to him as General Serholm. He refers to a few of his subordinates by their surnames, while they are referred to by their given names while we’re looking at things from their POV. So, it gets unnecessarily confusing at times right at the beginning of the book. It gets a little easier as you go though and characters begin to take real shape. Alun is definitely my favorite character here, as he is so no-nonsense and doesn’t take any bullshit from anyone, especially Del’Ahrid.
There’s a lot going on here in a fairly short amount of pages for an epic fantasy (not a complaint, believe me). So, there’s plenty of action to go around. There’s lots of action, gore and fight scenes. It’s well written, and the dialogue and plot flows quite well, so I did have a hard time putting it down. There are many twists and turns, and things happen that you don’t often see in fantasy. Things that are… sort of familiar from other genres that are used here as fantasy. It’s quite interesting. There are more or less aliens, zombies, and werewolves(ish?) all mingled into one story, and you’d think that would be a really big clusterfuck of weird, but no, it works in this case. It really works.
My one real gripe with it is that the women in this book appear to be the characters that you need to feel sorry for… and that’s about it. I wish there were a few more ladies in this book who didn’t get verbal or physical abuse hurled at them every 5 seconds, because it seemed truly unnecessary to the story in the long run. Seiria, the main woman in this story is treated like total shit 90% of the time for some reason that we aren’t privy to until the end, and when that reason finally comes out, it didn’t make sense to me whatsoever as an actual reason for any of what happened to her. We meet a priestess, who seems confident and strong willed and within minutes she’s on the floor reeling from being smacked in the face. Khyber runs into one nice lady briefly on his journey who is actually not treated badly at the time. ‘Yay!’ I said to myself only to later learn that she’s actually a victim of abuse who fled from her abuser. It made me wonder when we were going to learn that the random lady that offered Seiria tea also has a past full of abuse that we needed to somehow know about for reasons related to the offering and imbibing of tea. Perhaps this general shitty treatment of women is an aspect of the world they live in, and I can sort of understand that (to a point), but I still feel like this world would be more fun to read about if there was a bigger presence of strong women in it. The distinct lack thereof didn’t ruin the whole thing for me, but it soured it a little.
All told, I thought it was pretty good! It was paced pretty well, written quite well and flowed nicely from start to finish. It had some really unique ideas in it, and a lot of the unexpected. The ending wrapped up most of the story, but left many questions that will likely be answered in the next volume. The next book will surely go on the TBR of Babel.