Review: The Vale: Behind the Vale by Brian D. Anderson

This has a vaguely ‘David Duchovny as Iron Man’ vibe, but I’m still a big fan ❤

This book was one that I had seen the cover of in various facebook groups in which I am a member, and it looked intriguing, so I added it to the TBR of Babel. I wasn’t expecting to be offered a review copy of it, but then again, I’m never really expecting review copies of anything, lol.

So, I got a free copy of this book from the author, and in exchange, here is my honest review of it!

Thousands of years after the war of the ancients, a single bastion of human life survives – The Vale. And at its core the magnificent city of Troi. Here the mana flows from the great power station, bringing light and life to all. It is a beacon of hope in a sick and dying world. But all is not as it appears. Even as the Order of High Mages seeks to cure the land, sinister forces move to gain absolute control over The Vale and its citizens.
Drake Sharazi, disgraced Royal Guard turned bounty hunter, has been exiled from Troi to the surrounding provinces, where resources are limited and starvation is commonplace. It is in this squalor and poverty he believes he shall spend his remaining days. But after years of labor and suffering, he has been given the chance to go home; to return to the life he has longed for since the moment he left his beloved city. But he quickly discovers that the life he desires is built on a foundation of lies.
Now he must choose between what is right and what is easy. But what is right could cost more than he is willing to pay. And to save his home, he might have to destroy it…and all he has ever loved.

Mile after mile of crumbling buildings and shabby houses covered the landscape. Everything was gray and dull; made more obvious by the mana streams flowing overhead in a seemingly infinite array of colors. The few shops scattered about were packed with hungry people scrambling to get what little food was avilable – though it was never enough.

I do really like the cover, but I didn’t expect to really latch on to this book immediately (because that doesn’t often happen to me) but I sure did anyway! I read nearly half of this thing in one sitting, and these days, that’s about the same as if a unicorn showed up at my house. A day and a half later and I was done. A very quick read, to be sure!

This story follows Drake Sharazi, an exiled Royal Guard from Troi who now lives as a bounty hunter (or ‘hawker’) in the provinces surrounding the kingdom. He spends his time in a sort of sleazy, run-down dive of a bar when he’s not on a job looking for a runner. He’s in said bar, among the riffraff of the outer provinces when he’s suddenly and inexplicably the target of an assassination attempt. Already a bad day, but to add to that, the sheriff says there’s a messenger from Troi here to talk to him.

As it turns out, the messenger is an old… frenemy of his, and he’s there to tell him that the Prince of Troi, an old friend of Drake’s, has been kidnapped. Despite the charges he was faced with and the resulting 9 years of exile, the King hires Drake to find his son. And shenanigans indeed begin. Drake has to find the prince and finds out some pretty crazy stuff along the way, and has to make some tough choices.

Vale is a land within a land. It’s a largish country with several provinces in it, with varying levels of poverty among them, usually in the outer provinces. The land of Vale has a huge barrier around it, and outside that barrier is wastelands and creatures known as hellspawn. The high mages in this world are what keeps Vale going, keeps food growing, and things like that, and they all live in Troi, so the closer you are to Troi, the better your life is ultimately going to be.

This world is fascinating! It feels a little urban fantasy-ish (which I am a fan of), but not really like any other UF I’ve read. This isn’t our world but with magic (like many UF). It’s a huge, sprawling world… with magic in it. Perhaps it is our world but millennia after we’ve completely wrecked it… with magic in it… who knows? There is plenty of technology in it: cars, television, guns, and what have you, but there is a real sort of divide between our world and this one. There are similarities, yes, but this is a world unlike ours, and it is described well so I got a pretty good picture of it. It’s almost like the world of Final Fantasy XV (modern, with cars/phones etc, but with magic, which the ruling class are the primary users of, etc) with a bit of an… almost Noir detective story vibe on top. That’s what my brain made it.

I realize that I’m not doing a real good job putting my thoughts together here, lol. It’s well written, had great characters that I cheered for, and a really interesting magic/gun technology system. It surprised me more than once with twists it turns in the plot, and the pace stayed pretty fast throughout. It was never boring. That’s pretty much all I need in a book. Characters I don’t hate: check. Not boring: check. (Alright, there’s more to it than that, but this is a great start nonetheless). The last quarter of this book was fantastically full of twists and turns. All kinds of stuff that I didn’t see coming came flying at my brain, and I was completely riveted. It didn’t end on a cliffhanger exactly, but there is definitely more story to come, and I am excited to read it!

With a bit of a role reversal and 10 or so more years on ’em? Yep. Lenora and Drake. 😀

Guys this is a really good use of a couple days of reading time. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a more modern setting in their fantasy. I give it 4.5/5 stars!


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