By: David Dalglish
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit/Hachette Book Group
I think we can all admit that there are times when we are drawn to a book solely because of its cover, despite the old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover”. I ignored that upon seeing the cover of The Bladed Faith, with its mysterious masked figure holding a sword. Reading the book summary, I felt that David Dalglish had written a very intriguing fantasy. I have to admit I am glad to have judged this book by its cover. It is a riveting story of a deposed prince, Cyrus, the subjugation of his people, revenge, political intrigue and betrayal. I was swept into this world from the first page. Each character was skillfully crafted, and there were several protagonists and antagonists. The magic was perfect, not over used nor overdone. This is a character and plot driven book, so I felt the world building is not the main focus. The story takes place entirely in one city, some of the outskirts, and we get glimpses of other places through flashbacks. The Bladed Faith mainly focuses on Cyrus, who becomes The Vagrant, a masked, skilled fighter who will rally his people to freedom. The narrative is told in the third person and uses one of my favorite techniques, where each chapter focuses on a different character. I like this because I get a glimpse into each character separately, what drives them, and how they think. It also makes me eager to pick up their story again when we next encounter them. There is both LBGTQ representation, and suppression of it, which mirrors what goes on in our society and I found very important to include. I was completely immersed in The Bladed Faith by Mr. Dalglishs’ skillful prose and story of a reluctant hero trying to help his people, and the obstacles tossed in his way, very often surprising from where they come from. This is fantasy at its finest and I highly recommend The Bladed Faith.
The main protagonist, Cyrus, is the embodiment of the reluctant hero. He is the deposed prince of the peaceful kingdom of Thanet, until it is invaded by the Everlorn Empire, his parents, and their gods killed. In one day, his life of peace and luxury comes to a grinding halt. He his held hostage for two years, serving as a puppet for the Empire, who force him to call on his people to renounce their gods and worship the God-Incarnate of the Uplifted Church. Cyrus is a naïve young 14-year-old boy when this happens, knowing little outside of Thanet before the invasion. He is subsequently rescued by the Paladin Knight sworn to protect him, Rayan. He is taken to a wealthy man, Thorda, and begins his training to become The Vagrant. He will serve to rally his people to rebel against the Empire. Cyrus is a complex character. When he complained too much about his harsh training, he became quite annoying. When he forces himself to train harder, driven by his past and cruelty of the Empire, he begins to mature and see his role as that of rightful leader of Thanet. They change is gradual over two years. It is realistic for a “pampered” prince to resent hard training and have self-doubt about becoming this vengeful hero, The Vagrant. Cyrus’ character arc is very well done, and elicited many different feelings for him. He was brave to give himself up only to see his parents murdered, he became a little whiny when he trained, and he eventually matured into the fighter he was trained to be. In this role he is at once unsure of himself, and confident in his skills. I liked Cyrus’ character very much and he was well constructed.
The other main characters are Thorda, his two daughters, Stasia and Mari, the Paladin knight, Rayan, and the main protagonists Magus and Sinshei. Each one is thoroughly fleshed out and all elicited a response from me. Some I loved, others I hated, and still others I wasn’t too sure about. Where did they really stand in all of this?
Thorda is very wealthy and funds the rebellion, and is responsible for training Cyrus, along with his daughter Stasia. He is stoic and focused on the rebellion, sure that Cyrus will succeed in his plan for him to become the Vagrant. Thorda and his daughter’s homeland was destroyed by the Empire, and Thorda’s husband, who originally wore the mask, was executed. He and his daughters have stirred up unsuccessful rebellions throughout the empire, but now Thorda is sure this will succeed. Thorda is very interesting. He carries guilt about his husband’s murder and anger at the Empire. What is his driving force? Is it revenge or to really free the people from the Empire? Stasia is unusually strong and trains Cyrus, along with Thorda, Mari is a god-whisperer. She can take the form of the dead gods of a kingdom. In this case, Thanet had the gods Endareus the Lion, and Lycaena. Mari “shares” her body with Endareus, becoming a one-woman lion killing machine. Rayan is a Paladin Knight of Lycaena, sworn to protect the royal family. He cares deeply for Cyrus, and he in fact, was the one who rescued him. Stasia is also representative of the LBGTQ community with her girlfriend Clarissa. When the Empire takes over, and bans same sex relationships, they must sneak moments together and keep it secret. Cyrus, Stasia, Mari and Rayan are powerful force the rebellion.
Magus and Sinshei, the main antagonists, play their role well very too well. The religion of the Uplifted Church and worship of the God-Incarnate is fanatical. It’s basically worship or die, which I suppose is an effective recruiting tool. While Thanet has Paladins, the Empire has paragons. Best way to describe them is Captain America on steroids, tossing in the ability the ability to heal, making them almost impossible to fight. They are chosen and go through a ritual to become a paragon. Magus is a paragon, and has taken the role of Imperator of Thanet, or the Usurper King, as the rebels call him. He is merciless in his treatment of the people. He fills the antagonist role perfectly. Sinshei is a priestess, her role to spread the word of worship and force attendance to the Uplifted Church. She is one of the daughters of the God Incarnate. Sinshei has an agenda, and it’s very interesting to see it play out with Magus. Despite that, she’s neither good or likeable.
The magic manifests in several ways. There is no one singular magic system in the book. There is Mari being a god-whisperer who can share her body with deceased gods. She has taken on several forms over the years, and in Thanet, she becomes the lioness and huntress as the incarnate of Endareus. Mari can change form at will, she is not the lioness at all times. Rayan, the Paladin Knight, has imbued strength from the goddess Lycaena. Although she is “dead”, he feels her spirit and still prays to her for strength. The paragons of the Everlorn Empire are the most dangerous, gifted through blood ritual with inhuman powers, they are nearly impossible to kill. I found it quite refreshing to see magic in different forms. It was a different way to use magic, Mr. Dalglish wields it exceptionally well.
The Bladed Faith is an excellent addition to the epic fantasy genre. Cyrus, the rightful prince of Thanet, becomes the reluctant masked hero, The Vagrant. There is so much more to this story of Cyrus. Joined by Rayan, Thorda, Stasia, and Mari, they inspire the people to rebel against the empire that brutally took over. As the people suffer, Cyrus is molded into The Vagrant. He doubts what he can do, but he grows as a character who becomes more confident in his skills, and also seeks revenge for his parent’s murder and the abuse of his people. All of these characters are excellently composed with complete character arcs. The antagonists, Magus and Sinshei, are fanatical in their imposing of the religion of the God Incarnate and the Uplifted Church. They all elicit a strong response in the reader, which is what great writing will do. I cared about what happened to Cyrus, and I seriously wanted Magus and Sinshei to pay for their crimes. Seamlessly entwined into this fantasy is political intrigue, betrayal, fanaticism, and the subtle use of magic. Magic was incorporated on several fronts; the god-whisperer, Mari, who takes in the Lion God Endareus and change into him when needed; the strength of the Paladin Knights, and the creation of the paragons. Not having one “universal” magic system makes this stand out and more interesting. Finally, there is LBGTQ representation in Thorda and Stasia. There is also the persecution of same sex relationships by the Empire, a mirror of the struggles of the LBGTQ community constantly faces. I like the fact that I am reading more of this representation in fantasy, and Mr. Dalglish handles it beautifully. I highly recommend The Bladed Faith, and eagerly await the next book.
Summary (from NetGalley)
A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantel of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods in this epic fantasy from a USA Today bestselling author.
Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents—the king and queen—beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader’s court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary “Vagrant”—an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill.
But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance.
Find out more about David Dalglish on his website: http://ddalglish.com/wp/
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