“The human consort of the Absolved, ” Book explained. “Said to be the most perfect man ever to grace the earth. The Absolved was smitten at the first glance they shared, as too was Thandril. It’s said their love endured for more than a century, the youth kept youthful by the Absolved’s devotion. But all love fades, as does all beauty.”
So what’s the book about?
A god gone mad destroyed the kingdom of Alnachim, originally full of magical beings and beauty. Now the once beautiful land has been turned into a wasteland inhabited by many ominous grotesque monsters. Yet despite the wounded land, people make pilgrimages in the hope of praying to the god and being heard. The pilgrimage to the centre of the cursed land will be a hurdle for the desperate souls. Pilgrim also wants to seek out the god to find redemption and sets out together with a teenage priest, a beast-charmer, a scholar, as well as an actor and two exiled lovers. The path to answer the prayer to the god is littered with madness and monsters, and yet even in the end it is not granted whether the prayer of the souls will be answered.
Why I wanted to read this series?
One of the first fantasy series I ever read was the Raven’s Shadow series by Anthony Ryan. To this day, it is still one of my favourites, because I was so enthusiastic about this series at the time and since then I have read almost exclusively fantasy. Moreover, just recently I read his Draconis Memoria series and was so excited about the whole idea of that series. The setting, the characters and as always the writing style was exceptionally good and special too. Of course, I had to read this series now as well because I am very excited to see what ideas he came up with. Even though I’m usually not a fan of short books, because simply the stories can’t build up sufficiently in my view, I also wanted to read this series. Of course I bought the signed editions, but because I was afraid of breaking them, I also got it as an eBook.
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- The world in which the story is set seems like it was created out of a nightmare. While reading, you have an oppressive feeling, almost feel confined and just want to wake up from this nightmare. It is not only the grotesque creatures that contribute to this feeling, but also the story itself. The creatures seem like animals from the real world, only hideously changed, and yet there are many different creatures that you encounter on the way to the final destination. When you think that the world was once full of beautiful wonders, the creatures only seem more grotesque and hideous. But the journey also plays a part in making you feel a little like you’re locked in a nightmare, because these souls are desperate enough to want to walk the path in order to be heard by the god. Each one has his or her own problem as to why they are taking this journey. If one has to walk such a path, one can expect that the persons are poor souls whom nothing can actually help.
- This book also seems mysterious because you don’t know at the beginning exactly what the goal of this journey is, why these people have come together, so you are somehow, as Anthony Ryan likes to do, just thrown into the story and have to find out bit by bit how everything is connected with each other. You ask yourself who the individual companions are, why they want to seek out this god, but also who this god actually is, can he really help these people and what do they hope for when they have found the god. At the same time, one hardly learns anything about the people and one always expects that one of these companions will turn out to be an enemy. The fact that the characters don’t say their real names, but give themselves one, makes it even more sinister. The places the companions roam also seem eerie and mysterious, everything is desolate and there seem to be no living creatures, it feels so empty and you want to know why it all happened. This journey reminded me of Diablo II, if anyone knows the game, you know that you always have a destination, but you don’t know the dangers of this journey, you meet strange creatures and you feel alone. Because there is not a soul inhabiting this world either, except in small villages where the rest of humanity stays – and this world seems just as mysterious to me.
- Pilgrim was the perfect character to fit into this bleak and fearful world. Because he himself is very secretive and somehow scary. Even the fact that he can communicate with his sword doesn’t make him any more trustworthy. His sword shows Pilgrim’s identity repeatedly, because he is not a hero, but rather the evil one. However, not only does the sword have a demonic existence, we also learn about the demonic atrocities Pilgrim has done in his past. This connection between the sword and the bearer is unique, because on the one hand, they complement each other, but on the other hand, they are also different. For Pilgrim repeatedly reveals that he is not quite the callous person he initially appears to be, but does have a heart.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
I have never read anything so dark by Anthony Ryan and after this book, I have to say that I would like to read more in this direction by him. He manages to build up such a dark, gloomy world in so few pages, adds the right characters who seem mysterious and equally dark and adds eerie creatures, and of course this is paired with a breathtakingly great writing style. This world is so unique, although I know video games that have this flair; I have yet to read a book that could give me this scary and confining feeling. Even if at the beginning you don’t know exactly what the story of this book is about, the end is completely convincing. You learn that it is not only about repentance, but that there is much more behind this journey and the destination. Despite the small number of pages, this story had so much atmosphere that it sweeps you along and you can’t even put the book aside. I really hope that many more books will be written in this world and I’m off to the next volume!
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