A fantasy novel focuses on a young warrior caught up in an epic clash of bloodthirsty ancient gods.
The latest book from Scott (Sorrow’s Heart, 2016), the first in a projected series, begins in the cramped, squalid, violent slum called the Slaag in the city of Tuilar in a land ruled by and terrorized by the Lord of Chaos and his mortal minions. This dark god visits localized chaos-storms at random on the ordinary people of this world. They have to contend not only with the tempests, but also with grunkins, the fearsome creatures who spawn in the storms’ aftermath. These high-fantasy dangers are distant from the desperate, hand-to-mouth existence of young Dirge and his mother, who are trying to eke out a living in the Slaag. But when Dirge finds his mother dead in an alley one night, his childhood abruptly ends (after that, readers are told: “He didn’t laugh. He didn’t cry. He simply didn’t care anymore”). A kindly tavern owner named Katlyn takes him in, and he comes under the tutelage of one of her bouncers, Talic Sern, who soon reveals himself to be far more than mere hired muscle. He’s a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins, which serves the death god Aza’zel by carrying out divinely sanctioned murder contracts. With Talic’s help, Dirge grows into a young man skilled in the ways of combat, but despite the bonds of friendship between his teachers and himself, he feels ill at ease. Increasingly, he becomes drawn to the service of another supernatural being, the old, forgotten god Ukase. When Dirge breaks with the Brotherhood and strikes out on his own, Scott effectively broadens the previously narrow setting of his story as he follows his up-from-nothing main character into various military adventures in a world being torn apart by warring deities. On this new path, the novel’s dynamic hero faces difficult choices, including whether to lead Ukase’s warriors (“His whole life, Dirge had only dreamt of being a part of something.…It was why leaving the Brotherhood was so torturous. He’d never thought—never wanted—to lead anyone”). Fans of John Marco and R. Scott Bakker should gladly welcome a first-rate author to their ranks—and should be happy to see the words “to be continued” at the close of this book.
This vivid and gripping supernatural tale about a daring fighter grows more somber and complex as it builds.