Braylar is still poisoned by the memories of those slain by his unholy flail Bloodsounder, and attempts to counter this sickness have proven ineffectual. The Syldoonian Emperor, Cynead, has solidified his power in unprecedented ways, and Braylar and company are recalled to the capital to swear fealty. Braylar must decide if he can trust his sister, Soffjian, with the secret that is killing him. She has powerful memory magics that might be able to save him from Bloodsounder's effects, but she has political allegiances that are not his own. Arki and others in the company try to get Soffjian and Braylar to trust one another, but politics in the capital prove to be complicated and dangerous. Deposed emperor Thumarr plots to remove the repressive Cynead, and Braylar and Soffjian are at the heart of his plans. The distance between "favored shadow agent of the emperor" and "exiled traitor" is unsurprisingly small. But it is filled with blind twists and unexpected turns. Before the journey is over, Arki will chronicle the true intentions of Emperor Cynead and Soffjian.
©2014 Jeff Salyards (P)2014 Audible Inc.
This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Period. I loved the first book, and I was blown away by the writer's growth, and the way he expanded his universe, while keeping this as a really intimate story of a small core of soldiers and their chronicler. The characters grow in interesting ways, the magic expands, and does the author ever have a flair for character interactions. The conversations the characters have, and the revelations they make are great at moving the story along. The conspiracies only get crazier, and betrayals bound. I would recommend this book to any fan who likes their fantasy gritty and grim, with a leavening of humor to keep things from getting depressing. Any fan of Joe Abercrombie, Anthony Ryan, Brandon Sanderson, Brian McClellan or Mark Lawrence should enjoy this series. Kris Chung's narration was even better than the first book, and added a good note to the story.
This could be an epic fantasy on par with the very best. It is a world revealed at a tantalizing but slow pace, however. Those who like this novel cite that as a plus, but it can be frustrating. The writing is crisp and well done. The story arc has conflict, intrigue and twists. It has some great characters that may be somewhat limited by the first person chronicler narrative. There is violence, action and gritty dialogue. There is a developing back story of an magic system and mythology that intrigues but has not yet fully ramped up. There is fertile ground for multiple volumes of stories in this universe that Salyards has created, but he is presently content to slowly unwrap this present and to slowly build the story arc. The first two novels really seem like one giant unfinished single novel and I am curious to see how he puts this together in the third installment.
Chung is a talented and able narrator with a pleasant tone, but I had a little cognitive dissonance with the narration as he mixed American, British and Irish accents. Keeping it more consistent would have made it more seamless in a fantasy setting with medieval a Pseudo-European culture. A British narrator might have worked better.
All in all, this is a very good book with huge potential for multiple narratives.
Veil of the Deserters picks up exactly where Scourge of the Betrayer left off. And by that, I mean it starts right up following the end of Book One. It took me a bit to recall what all events had happened at the end of the first book, but pretty soon I was back into the story.
Once again we follow our bookish narrator Arki as he follows the Syldoon. While still a wimp, Arki is more active in this book as he's getting a little more used to his companions. The characters are wonderful and the dialogue (especially Mulldoos') is spectacular. We also get to meet a character even more intimidating, scheming, and bad-ass than Captain Killcoin. His sister. Salyards introduces us to her as well as a very awesome magic system.
Like with Book 1, expect some great action scenes. The world is very well done and what I really enjoy about it is that there is a grand sense of history and scale, but Salyards doesn't stop and puke out a bunch of history at you like many other authors do. Instead, he slowly reveals the world, building on it and allowing it to feel more natural.
Veil of the Deserters has more of an ending that Book 1 had, at least it felt more like an end. Scourge of the Betrayer just sort of stops, while this book closes with a promise that things are about to get a whole lot worse for our heroes.
Narrator Khris Chung has done an outstanding job. I enjoyed his timing in delivery, unique voices for each character, and I really like that he adds those little details such as sighs and laughs when appropriate. It's a true performance rather than a simple reading.
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