Veil of the Deserters has made Jeff Salyards’ Bloodsounder’s Arc one of the best Fantasy series out there. As the story has progressed, I’ve become more impressed with his gifts and convinced that anyone who enjoys Fantasy needs to treat themselves with Jeff’s books.
The story is about an archivist who has nothing and no one but his skills in writing and translation. He is lonely and unsure where he fits in this grim world—a sentiment I share strongly, and enjoyed experiencing with him. A band of gruff soldiers hire him to record their upcoming adventure, which grows more dangerous and interesting in escalating levels of awesome. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but if you haven’t read any of these books, maybe check out my review of the first book, Scourge of the Betrayer. The bonus of reading this review is I get to show you some spoiler free goodies that you’d have to look forward to.
I mentioned Jeff having multiple gifts. Each one makes him stand out among the best writers out there. In a story that is about ninety percent grim, Jeff’s superb talent for humorous dialogue really helps to keep you from feeling fatigued at all the tough things that happen. The characters surprise you with what they say, evoking the need to keep reading for more nuggets of wit and strategic plotting. All of his characters are smart and either worthy adversaries or allies, and with the POV of Arki the archivist, it was nice to see him earning his place among their company, as friend and foe.
On top of the dialogue are his action scenes that are never easily won, and always among the most exciting I’ve read. As Arki grows more comfortable with the band of soldiers through the dialogue they share, he also grows a little more comfortable wielding his crossbow. He is no marksman by the end, but when he does have to use his weapon, it has the effect of strong tension and excitement.
A theme that develops in this book in relation to its illustration of war is that whenever Arki or someone displays mercy, it ends up costing them tenfold. Add to this how well the end conflict wraps together all the development of worldbuilding and characters moving their pieces across the chessboard, and you have a concise, in-depth story. What else can I say about the worldbuilding and characters without spoiling anything? Or how about sharing some samples from the text? I’m going to refrain because they are so good in their context and execution that to share further or to give examples would ruin the experience. I stake my reputation as a reviewer on the solid and often exceptional quality of these books.
When it comes to star ratings for books, I’m afraid this one is not quite a five star for me, as highly as I still recommend it. 4.5 is the most accurate, with the first one being a solid 4. So there is improvement, in pacing, character development, worldbuilding, and a clearer plot, but I’m afraid as a whole it isn’t among my top tier of books. It is setting the stage for the next one to likely land in that category, but this one rang more true to the sense of “very good” than evoking a “wow,” response. There are parts that I wish read a little quicker and I’m hoping for the best plot twists, character empathy moments and worldbuilding revelations to amp up some more. Still, that’s being quite picky. As I said at the beginning, I think this is a must-read for Fantasy fans.
This Week’s Posts and Book Giveaways: (Monday) Excerpt of Ecko Burning by Danie Ware; (Tuesday) Podcast on Bloodsounders Arc with Jeff Salyards; (Wednesday) Interview about Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
This week, AISFP Newsletter subscribers from the US and Canada will be entered to win one of:
- 3 paper copies of Ecko Burning
- 3 hardback sets of Jeff Salyards’ Bloodsounders Arc (Scourge of the Betrayer and Veil of the Deserters)
- 3 hardback copies of The Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson.
Subscribe by Monday, June 9th at 11:59 PM CDT.
Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.