By: Christopher Russell
Series: Divinity’s Twilight #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Steampunk/Military Fantasy
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Content/Trigger Warnings: Shown on page: Fantasy violence, Death, Mild gore, Racism, Bullying, Vomiting. Alluded to: Slavery, Genocide, Child abuse, Starvation, Prostitution, Drug/alcohol use
“Such is the tale in its entirety, and though it may only be a myth, it is certainly a reasonable explanation of the current conflict that plagues us…Peace is but a dream that few, such as myself, cling to with failing hope.” Christopher Russell, Divinity’s Twilight
Divinity’s Twilight is Christopher Russell’s imaginative and exceptional debut fantasy novel. With a unique magic system, amazing world building, incredible battles with flying airships, and well-developed characters, this novel was one I couldn’t put down. One of the first surprising parts of Divinity’s Twilight is the very long prologue. While I have never read a prologue this long, it serves and important purpose to set the stage for the rest of the story, which simply cannot be told in a few pages. We need to fully understand the events of the past to see what is happening in the present. It not only was unusual, but an excellent choice on the part of Mr. Russell. In the past, we discover three powerful brothers and a terrible war, the War of Har’m.uth. Two gave up their lives to imprison for eternity the architect of the horrors of this war, their brother Sarcon. In the present, war between the Kingdom of Darmatia and the Sarconian Empire still wages on. It is the Sarconians who want to release Sarcon and once again rule the world. This sets the stage for the story in Divinity’s Twilight.
The main characters were a motley mix of graduate cadets from the Darmatian Military School. Magic manifests in these cadets, with varying degrees, and they typically can wield certain types magic, but rarely more than one. By far the most powerful is Vellan, who is a rare Triaron, the only one in the kingdom. He is an elementalist sorcerer, who can “cast any element from any weapon…without needing to speak.” Vellan is also arrogant, rude, and over-confident. Sylette, is Vellan’s greatest competition in school’s war games, and she is much like him, cold and arrogant. Matteo is the one who is book smart and not particularly brave. Velle is talented and Vellan’s girlfriend. Leon is the lighthearted member of the group and close to Vellan. Rounding out the cadets is Lillith, adept at fire magic, and Renar, the classic class bully. The final test for their graduation is a war game, where magic is allowed, in addition to skill and ingenuity. There are divided into teams, and though each of many are on opposing teams. However, the games are never finished as the Sarconian Empire chooses to attack, throwing these untried cadets into war.
We are also introduced to characters in the Sarconian Empire. The Emporer himself, Sychon, is a cruel man and powerful sorcerer, bent on destroying Darmatia and the surrounding lands. With the resurrected Sarcon, he seems unstoppable. Another character of note is Rittermarschal Valescar, who serves Sychon and will do as commanded, though sometimes he clearly may not want too. I did not feel sympathy for his dilemma. Valescar can choose to do what’s right, but he doesn’t and in his service, he can be completely deceiving and cruel.
The character arcs were well developed. While on the surface, they seem like high school students in “cliques”, is runs so much deeper. They are older, and we know no matter how old someone is, they can still carry the traits they have always had. Some of them come with a past hurts that are hard to come to terms with, and build a wall around themselves. The person they project is not truly who are they are. When they find themselves together, they need to get past the resentment and work together. For the most part they do. However, Vellan’s pain runs deep, and Leon knows it:
“In effect, they were actually quite similar. Both had a void in their hearts they were trying to fill, and both sought after they could never possess. But while he had grown and found peace in their time together, Vallen remained mostly unchanged. Leon might be the prodigy’s closest friend, but even he was blocked from ever knowing the real him.” Christopher Russell, Divinity’s Twilight
The pacing and prose were excellent. The pacing was even and we see character development as well as they story as it unfolds. The battle scenes were particularly exciting. The metal airships were so creative, and both the Saronian Empire and Darmatia possessed them. It becomes a battle waged in the sky. Mr. Russell takes the reader right into the action, and the strategy of waging a war with air ships. They were armed with magetech (magic), canons, and other weapons. It was a refreshing change from ground battles we often see in fantasy. The thought and creativity put into these amazing crafts is brilliant. It easy to picture this war being waged in the sky.
“In the near distance, passing in and out of the occasionally puffy clouds before them, was the rest of the Darmatian air fleet…about them all was the soft glow of magic energy…” Christopher Russell, Divinity’s Twilight
The book is told in the third person narrative of many characters. Chapters are not devoted to one particular character, but it is cohesive and never confusing. We become privy to the past of the main characters, which reveals much of what drives them. Sarcon is freed, and we see the evils of the Sarconian Empire. Mr. Russell does not give us a one-sided story with the characters. While the cadets are the main protagonists, we do get see main players on the other side as well. Through the war, and the pain of the characters, there are moments of absolute beauty, part where I cried. One part in particular is called Lanar’s Lullaby. That is all I will say since it will lead to spoiler territory. Rather than write the lullaby, Mr. Russell graciously shared with me a recording of him singing the song. He has an amazing voice and I am honored that he shared it with me. I hope you will listen. It still makes me cry.
Christopher Russell’s debut novel, Divinity’s Twilight, is an excellent addition to epic fantasy. With its unique magic, world building, amazing battles with airships, and great characters, I was drawn into this novel from the first page. The long prologue, unusual for a book, was an excellent choice as the detail was needed to set the stage for the remainder of the story. Airships battles took the reader right into the action, with their weapons powered by magic. The cadets, thrown untrained into battle, must overcome their mistrust and dislike of each other to form a unit to fight the Sarconian Empire. They were all unique, each flawed and dealing with past hurts that they must come to terms with. We see both sides of the war, including Sarconians who wreak terror, as well as the Darmatians, most notably the main protagonists. Told in the third person narrative, it flows smoothly and seamlessly. I found this novel to be a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend Divinity’s Twilight to all fantasy fans.
Summary (from Escapist Tours)
A world consumed by war . . .
An ancient evil resurrected . . .
A millennia old bargain comes due . . .
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
You can find out more about Christopher Russell on his website at: https://actualgina.com/books
My thanks to Christopher Russell for gifting me a copy of the book and Escapist Book Tours for a copy of the eBook.
Purchase Divinity’s Twilight on his website: https://www.christopherrussellauthor.com/shop
Purchase Divinity’s Twilight on Amazon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 29-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into a fantasy epic bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit christopherrussellauthor.com.