An immortal tyrant and his soul-collecting lieutenant bid to enslave the Western world in Harwood’s debut novel, the first volume in a sword and sorcery saga.
Pieter Thomas, a fisherman in the raw Caribbean dotted with European plantations and slave labor, hurries to his island for the birth of his son. The newborn soon shows miraculous gifts. A valiant but unassuming Dutchman, Pieter doubts the lurid tales surrounding Jeringas Mortifer, evil ruler of much of nearby Venezuela. Mortifer is said to be 2,500 years old, bending thousands to his will by touch and sight alone. But all indeed grows dark as readers meet Mortifer’s chief lieutenant, the Soul Collector. Bringing dread and death, he serves both Mortifer and their higher authority, the dark powers of the supernatural “continuum.” The Collector kills quickly but imprisons the souls of esteemed opponents. Mortifer and the Collector seek two prophetic stone tablets, which tell of a Child of Prophecy who will free the Caribbean of evil. As the plot unfolds, a seer—the Mother of the Third Eye—guides the Dutch fisherman. In a vision, she shows him his newborn son’s stupendous but fraught future. Later, as readers learn the appalling key to Mortifer’s immortality, he orders the Collector to explore an alliance with an island of vampires. In the final pages, the heavens confirm the approach of a cataclysmic conflict. Here and elsewhere, readers will see the influence of other epics—The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the New Testament, and tales of King Herod. But the novel stands well on its own. Impressively, a wide range of characters and settings lives vividly on the page: African slaves, British officers, and Spanish sailors, vulnerable clairvoyants and Romanian bloodsuckers all play their parts. But the Collector of Souls unquestionably leads the pack. Harwood has wisely endowed him with a sense of honor, which, even while he serves a sordid master, humanizes and redeems him.
With a riveting villain, diverse cast, and mesmerizing violence, this epic offers plenty of meat on the bone for sword and sorcery fans.