The Tyranny of Faith: The Empire of the Wolf, Book 2

Book Reviews / Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

By: Richard Swan
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Orbit Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

WARNING: There will be spoilers for The Justice of Kings

“I was surprised by Vonvalt’s anger…To see him now, trembling with fury – well, frankly, it frightened me. It was a side of Vonvalt I did not see often.”
Richard Swan, The Tyranny of Faith

The Tyranny of Faith is the second installment of the The Empire of the Wolf series by Richard Swan. Let me start out by saying that once again, Mr. Swan delivers a brilliant non-stop, action-packed novel filled with exceptionally well-developed characters, the meting out of justice, unique magic, beautiful world building, and an epic climatic battle scene. The outstanding features of this series for me is the characters, which make these books so fantastic. In The Tyranny of Faith, we continue the story that Helena Sedanka tells of her time with Sir Konrad Vonvalt, Sir Dubine Bressinger, and Sir Radinger, who joined Vonvalt from Galen’s Vale. From the The Justice of Kings to The Tyranny of Faith, these characters have grown in complexity and their arcs are perfect. Through the continued narrative of Helena, we get to know more of them and the secrets and pain of their pasts. I still believe Konrad Vonvalt is one of best characters in the fantasy genre. Mr. Swan expertly takes the four main protagonists on a new trajectory, filled with twists and turns I never expected. In The Tyranny of Faith, he dangles the carrot in front of the readers as this edge of your seat story continues, and at the end, just leaves us wanting to reach for it, and much more.

Helena Sedanks has grown from her somewhat naivete and “hero worship” of Konrad, to observing him and realizing he is not perfect. She becomes more confrontational with him, as circumstances have changed and he has adapted to them, often doing thigs Helena disapproves of. Helena no longer holds back her questioning of his actions, even if it angers him. It is a natural progression as she has grown and spent so much time in his company. The story continues in her narrative, and it is through her eyes that we can also observe Vonvalt. We get to know him well though Helena, as she notes the changes in his facial features, the way he carries himself, and other small changes that she has learned to read be able to gauge his moods. Aside from Bressinger, she is probably the person who knows him best. I loved how Helena has grown from the first book. She is more assertive, more sure of herself, and her relationship with Vonvalt is also changing, which is natural given how closely they work together.

Vonvalt is dealing with some inner demons, which weigh heavily on him. His singular focus is dealing with the growing threat of Patria Claver and his support. Vonvalt is frustrated that Emporer throws roadblocks in his way of dealing with him. He does not think the Emporer is taking this threat seriously, and it is further stymied when his grandson and heir, is kidnapped. He tasks Vonvalt with finding him. This leads to layers of deception and depth that totally threw me off. It was excellent. Through Helena, the frustration is palpable through Mr. Swan’s beautiful prose:

“Knowing what was to come, all of the violence and death and the ultimate collapse of the Empire, you, reader, must feel like gripping these pages and shouting at the apparent inaction…History is neat. It is packaged, artificially broken up into epochs, and dissected remotely…Vonvalt has said, once, quite accurately, that the Empire faced half a dozen rebellions a year, and weathered them like a cliff weathers the pounding of the tide…”
Richard Swan, The Tyranny of Faith

Dubine Bressinger and Sir Radomir continue to be steadfastly loyal to Vonvalt, and Helena as well. They are equally frustrated by the Emperor. Bressinger, having lost his arm in the battle of Galen’s Vale, has trained to use his sword with one arm. Sir Radomir is just as skilled. However, like all the protagonists, they also are dealing with their own trauma. How each deal with it is very different, which makes the characters very relatable. Bressinger is as devoted to Helena as he is to Vonvalt. We know he lost his family, and he takes care of Helena. He promised her he would never leave her and would protect her. They are as close as siblings, and when he is troubled, Helena knows it. It is another beautiful passage when Helena argues with Bressinger about why he has changed. His change is related to his frustration with the Emporer and the ghosts of his past serving in battle. He apologizes, and it is in this beautiful passage that he tries to tell her just how these things can change a person.

“He looked up into the sky, as though seeing it for the first time… “You see everything differently. Everything becomes beautiful. Life suddenly has so much value. Everything is to be savoured, because you know-you know-that soon it will all be at an end.”
Richard Swan, The Tyranny of Faith

I was glad to see that the story continues to be in Helena’s point of view. We see how she has grown from the events of the Justice of Kings. She has never been to Sova, the seat of the Empire, and her wonder at the city as she observes it, is transferred to the reader as we see it for the first time. We notice how keenly Helena watches Vonvalt, and picks up on even smallest expressions to know how he is feeling. While they are very close, again, she is not the naïve young woman we saw in the first book. Helena no longer sits on the sidelines, and has no problem calling out Vonvalt for actions he takes that seem to go against his values, values that she came to know intimately from traveling with him. We get little in the way of her background, just some relevant information that relates to the Empire. She does not delve into her time as a street orphan. I think this was an excellent choice. While she narrates the story and she is a crucial part, it’s not the story of her past. It is a story of her present, Helena’s time with Vonvalt, Bressinger, and Sir Radomir.

The pacing and prose were excellent. The narrative flowed smoothly, as the story unfolds with Helena’s narrative. Her tone is different in this book as the events have taken a dire turn in the Empire. Helena is sharper, more critical of Vonvalt, and the others, and struggles with her relationship with Vonvalt. The addition of this part of the narrative was a great juxtaposition to everything else that was going on around them. Helena is surer of herself and her place in the lives of not only Vonvalt, but Bressinger and Sir Konrad. She is also critical of herself when she finds herself questioning what Vonvalt is tasked to do by the Emperor.

“I realised, even as I said it, the irony in such sentiment. But a day ago I was complaining about Vonvalt for precisely the same thing in sending Kadlec to be tortured. I did not reflect on it too much, convincing myself at the time that I was approaching the thorny issue from a position of righteousness, whereas Vonvalt was doing so from a position of moral laxity. But it was naked hypocrisy, of course.”
Richard Swan, The Tyranny of Faith

Overall Thoughts
The Tyranny of Faith, Book 2 in The Empire of the Wolf, matches the masterful and brilliant debut novel of this series, The Justice of Kings. We continue to follow Helena Sedanaka’s story of her time with Sir Konrad Vonvalt, Sir Dubine Bressinger, and Sir Radomir. Vonvalt continues to be one of the finest characters in fantasy that I have read. As events are changing with the threat of Patria Claver and his followers, Vonvalt’s effort to meet him head on is interrupted by directives of the Emporer. The characters, which are such an outstanding part of this series, continue to grow and develop. Helena is no longer the naïve clerk who looked at Vonvalt with reverance. She now sees a man with flaws, and at time she struggles, as he acts must ways that she never thought he would. The Empire is close to war, and what worked in one situation, is no longer working now. If she disagrees with him, she is no longer afraid to voice her opinion. Her growth was wonderful to see. The prose is perfect and beautiful, as we see each character deal with the trauma of their past. The moments where we see their guard down, the reflection of their lives is painful and palpable. Mr. Swan has once again seamlessly woven a story with these brilliant characters, unique magic, imaginative world building, and an brutal, realistic final battle scene. From the first page, I knew The Tyranny of Kings was going to be just as epic and the first book. There were so many unique elements and twists and turns that I never saw coming. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2023, and it did not disappoint. I highly recommend The Tyranny of Faith and The Justice of Kings. I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Summary (from NetGalley)

A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eBook ARC and Orbit Books for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more about Richard Swan on his website:
Purchase The Tyranny of Faith on Amazon
Purchase The Tyranny of Faith Signed Bookplate Edition at The Broken Binding
Review of The Justice of Kings

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