A debut novel twists together threads of magic and religion, innocence and corruption in a YA fantasy about a boy in search of a way to rescue his parents.
Thoren Theratigan anticipates a bright future, at least until the Inquisition rips his parents away from him, leaving his life in shambles. A not-so-chance encounter leads him to the dubious protection of a man named Armand and his charity. Armand tells Thoren that he must forge a new life for himself: “We can only play the hands we’re dealt. Sometimes all the good cards end up in your opponents’ hands.” Thoren—or Flinch, as he is soon called—barely has time to catch his breath before Armand’s brother, Darron, arrives with a summons from their father, the newly appointed Inquisitor General. The only way to save Flinch is to hide him as Armand’s assistant, and it’s out of the frying pan and into the hellfire—literally. There’s an incensed heretic dabbling in demonology, and Flinch is headed for the center of the whole mess. But if he can navigate religious politics, ambitious Inquisitors, demon-summoning heretics, and a host of strange and potentially dangerous enchanted objects, he just may have a chance at saving his family. Told from the first-person perspective of Thoren, the story is a polished coming-of-age tale, one with more gray than black and white. The Inquisition ruins lives and leads those capable of working spells to turn to dark magic and demonology out of revenge, defense, or rescue. But it also produces heretics who willingly embrace the darkness. This makes for more complex characters and challenging situations. Events move at a snappy pace, almost too fast at times. Thoren goes from losing his parents to finding a potential new father figure in the space of mere pages, and complication tumbles after complication. Compelling characters—like Chef, Armand’s cook—shine for a moment and are then lost in the shuffle of events. Thoren often acts far more connected to some of these characters than time or text reasonably permit, making some of the later dramatic moments and motivations feel unearned.
A solid and entertaining tale about a promising young hero during the Inquisition, with a lot to look forward to in the next installment.