And so it comes to an end. I finished this book over a week ago, and I’ve found myself reluctant to write the review. At first I thought it was just time constraints. I had final exams to write and to give and to grade. I had all the usual stuff that happens at the end of the semester that takes up time. Like averaging and posting grades. Meeting with students about why they had a C when they were sure they were going to get an A. (That didn’t happen this semester, but you get the idea. I did have some meetings with a few folks about grades.) Or why they have the grade they have when they didn’t attend most of the labs. (This always happens.)
But those things are over and done. I’ve got plenty to do to get ready for summer classes and fall, what with the new lab room coming online. But none of that is urgent, and much of it depends on other people doing certain things before I can do certain other things.
So what’s my point rambling on like this? I finally realized that by writing the review, I was done with the story and the characters. (Those that survived to the end, at least.) And I didn’t want to be done.
Have you ever read a book and stopped when you finished a scene or a chapter and went back and reread that portion, savoring the way the author wrote it, in awe of how powerful that part of the story was and how it tied to many things together in a way that was utterly satisfying? I haven’t done that in a long time. I did here. I still find myself thinking about certain scenes. Writing that touches an old and jaded reader such as myself, writing that I find to be that powerful, well, it has gotten hard to find.
I’d like to thank Jeff Salyards for sending me the review copy of The Chains of the Heretic as well as offer an apology for not getting the review posted sooner.
I’m not going to tell you much about what happens except in the most general terms. I don’t want to commit spoilers. I will say a few things. Braylor Killcoin and his men manage to cross the Godveil and survive. The crossing, that is, not necessarily the events on the other side.
They don’t exactly accomplish their objectives as far as their political goals are concerned. That’s a good thing, because what happens is actually far more interesting.
The strength of these novels isn’t in their worldbuilding, their magic system, or their combat scenes. All of those are outstanding, but the strength of the narrative lies in Arki’s character arc. He goes from being a timid outside who asks too many questions to an accepted companion of the company who is respected (and still asks too many questions). It’s watching how the Syldoon soldiers come to respect him and ask for his input when life or death decisions are being made.
This is grimdark fantasy at its best, which means it’s not going to be for everybody. Salyards doesn’t shy away from killing off major characters, but it’s never done in a casual way. The losses are mourned; the men and women deal with their grief rather than just shrugging it off. There’s plenty of action, intrigue, betrayal, revenge, and good storytelling. I couldn’t put it down.
The main storyline is resolved. There isn’t any actual need for another book to tie up any loose ends. But there are somethings Mr. Salyards could address at some point if he were so inclined. I hope he is, but I suspect he’s going to write something else next. That’s okay. I’m looking forward to whatever he writes next.