What a read! An epic saga reminiscent of Game of Thrones in its complexity and grandeur. Political ambition and corruption, backstabbing, treachery, religious hypocrisy, cruelty, bloodshed, all against the backdrop of a variety of gorgeous settings, all brought to life by the author’s use of rich and detailed imagery, and original, often poetic diction. Then there is the array of riveting characters: Paladins, Janisseries, Zabadars, horse warriors from the plains, “whose children learned to ride horses before learning to walk,” jinns, magi, dark spirits. I found myself completely absorbed in the scenes he painted to the point where I had it in front of me as I was on my treadmill!
The story is an ancient one, one of the battle for power between two different beliefs, that of East and West, and internal struggles within those beliefs. From the east, we have Kevah, a worshipper of Lat, from the Kingdom of Sirm. From the West, we have Micah the Metal, Ethosian worshipper of the Archangel, from the holy empire of Crucis. Both are fighting for Kostany, the “holiest city on earth” that originally belonged to the Ethosians, was taken by the Latians, then was taken back by Micah. Both are equally zealous in their conviction that the city belongs to their faith, and in their drive to get it back. They also have something else in common which is bigger than the two faiths, something more personal, which fuels Kevah’s drive, and which Micah slowly becomes aware of.
The question, as always, is, who does the holy land really belong to?
As both the heroes change, becoming more vicious, they both attribute their savagery to “rage transmitted to worship,” rage that will avenge their respective beliefs and kingdoms. But the enjoyment they take from that rage is disturbing and one can clearly see the darkness that overtakes them both, right down to the black metal arm that replaces one of Micah’s limbs, a symbol of that darkness.
What began as an exciting read for me became a bit exhausting, however, as the story progressed. It was like wading through non-stop conflict and fighting with no reprieve, and made the two heroes appear a little one-dimensional. Some longer breaks in between, with perhaps a deeper look at the plight of some of the other characters, like Princess Celene, would have been nice. What was her story besides a revolting few minutes with Micah? Who was she besides a nun? I would also have like to have seen more backstory about Aican, the Ethosian who appeared out of nowhere to switch sides. That felt a little forced. And I would have loved to have seen more of Labyrinthos – more detailed descriptions of the inside of it, perhaps some history as to how a labyrinth of caves ended up housing evil, perhaps some of its culture.
Overall, a gripping read, and, for fans of Game of Thrones type stories, you will love this one!