Jeff Salyards emailed me late last year asking if I would be willing to review his new novel, Chains of the Heretic. Having quite enjoyed his first novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, I immediately said yes. And created for myself a small problem. Chanins of the Heretic is the third novel in Bloodsounder’s Arc. And I hadn’t at that time read the second, Veil of the Deserters. So that’s what I did.
I commit dayjobbery in acdemia, and this semester has been unusually hectic. You may have noticed I’m not posting as often as I have in the past. There are reasons for that. I finished Veil in about thrice the amount of time I normally would; the reasons it took so long had nothing to do with the book. The reason it’s taken nearly a month to get the review up have nothing to do with the book, either. (Unless the universe takes aim at me this week, there will be a flurry of reviews of books I’ve readover the course of the last three months.) I’m hoping to read and get the review of Chains up in a few weeks.
If you’re a fan of grimdark fantasty, then Jeff Salyards is an author you will want to check out. He’s extremely good.
Veil of the Deserters takes up where Scourge of the Betrayer leaves off. Narrated by the scribe Arki, we learn more about Braylor Killcoin. Shortly into the book his sister Soffjian shows up. She’s as much of a bitch as he is a bastard. So of course they don’t get along. She brings with her an Imperial summons to return to Sunwrack, the capital. Braylor has a few things he wants to accomplish first.
Once back in the capital, things go from bad to worse. There were some nice twists in the story at this point. Not that there weren’t some nice twists before. Salyards has numerous strengths as an author. One of them is putting in plot twists you don’t see coming. Well, at least I didn’t, and I’m not that easy to fool.
We find out why Killcoin hired Arki. There is some translating that needs to be done. We find out more about the cursed flail Bloodsounder. It’s not just an ordinary cursed weapon.
Another of Salyards strengths is his characterization. While there’s plenty of intrigue and action, and make no mistake, Salyards is no slouch in the action department, this is a character driven novel.
The things that slowed down my reading were in some ways a good thing. I thoroughly soaked up the atmosphere of the book; often I don’t take time to savor a book because I’ve got so much lined up to review. The delays made the reading more emersive; ten to twelve pages a day wasn’t unusual while I was reading. That meant on days I was able to make time to read, which wasn’t everyday, it was like visiting old friends. Dangerous and not entirely pleasant old friends.
Veil of the Deserters was a solid fantasy which I heartily recommend, with the caveat that if you’re offended by bad language, the language in this one is especially creative in its badness. I’m looking forward to reading Chains of the Heretic.