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THE WAY OF UNITY by Sarah K. Balstrup


by Sarah K. Balstrup

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2023
ISBN: 9780645474701
Publisher: Burning Mirror Press

Balstrup’s moody fantasy novel explores religion and power.

Skalen Sybilla Ladain of Vaelnyr lives in an area of Velspar. The Seven Lands of Velspar place a lot of power in the hands of individuals known as Intercessors. These Intercessors make up a priest class that isn’t to be trifled with. For the average person, thinking “red thoughts,” which seem to be akin to “sinful” or violent thoughts, can result in execution. Sybilla hails from a ruling family, but when her father speaks against the Intercessors, retribution is swift. She wakes one day to find the family home aflame and says, “Because he had the courage to resist their advances, they silenced him with fire” (chapters are pegged to the incident; e.g., “Fifteen Years After the Fire”). The aggrieved daughter sets about her revenge in a merciless way, and she plans not only to kill the Intercessors, but to undo their past actions. Some wind up calling her the Red Skalen, and merely speaking her name causes one character to experience “an icy sensation.” But what does the future hold? Are the old ways of the Intercessors truly dead and gone? As the story progresses, it grows increasingly complex. There is much afoot in the lands of Velspar. Balstrup’s creatures are intriguingly unnerving; one looks like “a cloaked spirit falling from the sky” and another, a “mess of blood.” Not all surprises are physical either. One character manages to slip into a “gust of memory that was not her own.” Dialogue is often wooden, however (“You must be hungry after your journey, please sit and we can enjoy this meal while we talk”). Still, the murky atmosphere and the characters within it are full of surprises.

An enveloping epic in a strikingly harsh world.