I started this book a couple months back, though admittedly I didn’t finish it until recently. It wasn’t so much because I didn’t like it–I did like it, to a point–but because it was a pretty dark story, filled with horrific description of an alternate medieval England with monsters and witchcraft. In short, I was looking for something lighter, and delving into high fantasy soon after the fantastic kick I had with Assassin’s Apprentice was a pretty bad idea.
Anyway, the book.
by Gary Whitta
Inkshares, July 2015
Rated: / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley
He is England’s greatest knight, the man who saved the life of Alfred the Great and an entire kingdom from a Viking invasion. But when he is called back into service to combat a plague of monstrous beasts known as abominations, he meets a fate worse than death and is condemned to a life of anguish, solitude, and remorse.
She is a fierce young warrior, raised among an elite order of knights. Driven by a dark secret from her past, she defies her controlling father and sets out on a dangerous quest to do what none before her ever have—hunt down and kill an abomination, alone.
When a chance encounter sets these two against one another, an incredible twist of fate will lead them toward a salvation they never thought possible—and prove that the power of love, mercy, and forgiveness can shine a hopeful light even in history’s darkest age.
Just by reading the jacket summary, I’d imagined the book focused on two perspectives, one of Wulfric’s and one of Indra’s. That isn’t truly the case, and it takes about nine chapters before Indra’s viewpoint is actually seen. For the most part, the first quarter of the book was one ginormous prologue, covering the circumstance in which Wulfric becomes a horrific abomination. Heck, the point of view that the book actually starts on isn’t even Wulfric’s, and instead it starts with King Alfred.
This may actually seem a little dry and somewhat annoying, but I actually liked where the beginning took me. There was something interesting about the character of King Alfred and the moral dilemma he faces in the beginning of the story. Alfred is worried about his kingdom succumbing to a threat of a Viking invasion, and to combat this, he employs Aethelred into researching a dark ritual that could very well gain England the upper hand against the monstrous barbarians. Of course, such research comes with it a sacrifice, one Alfred realizes he doesn’t want to pay.
So the king ends up regretting his decision, Aethelred goes rogue, and lo and behold, a shitton of evil creatures come to light. Which means Alfred has to call up his most loyal–and most celebrated–knight to his aid in order to stop Aethelred from amassing an abomination army. Forget the Vikings when there’s an ex-Archbishop running rampant in England with a frelling demon army.
Enter Wulfric, a knight loyal to Alfred. His wife’s about to give birth to a child, but he is called away on an anti-abomination Crusade, and with an army of handpicked knights, Wulfric goes forth to hunt Aethelred and his abominations down.
Keep in mind all of this is in the first nine chapters of the book. The story pretty much changes tone at the end of this overly-long prologue, and soon after, Wulfric emerges victorious but loses much more than he gained from the Crusade.
Fast forward fifteen years later, and the second part of the story begins, this time with Indra.
Maybe it’s because I received an ARC version of this story, but because of how often the points of view changed between Wulfric and Indra (and later on a third character), the book became taxing to follow. It wasn’t because it was a difficult read in any respect–for an adult dark fantasy, a lot of things are pretty much spelled out for the reader. It was the formatting and the rapid POV change that put me off at times. Often each chapter held both Indra and Wulfric’s POV, and Wulfric’s POV would suddenly change to Indra’s within one paragraph of each other. It would have helped had there been paragraph breaks, because at least then I’ll know what to expect in the next paragraph.
That said, kudos to the description of the creatures and the horror amassed in the story. I often cringed at the visceral detail that Whitta went through to describe both the monsters and the violence in this time period. When Whitta wanted to showcase full-on despair, he certainly delivered on that point, and often the pages held nothing back in its victims. No one was safe when an abomination struck, least of all wives and children and innocent bystanders. It was brutal, and I often felt sick and horrified by the lengths the description took. So yes, lots of respect there (though admittedly, I did have to put the book down and read lighter works because of how depressing this book went).
As for Indra and Wulfric, I kind of saw where the story between the two would be going, so Indra’s role in the book was neither surprising nor impressive to me. I did like her as a character, though. She was, in her own way, pretty badass. All the same, I thought the story kind of just petered off into a slight dullness after Aethelred. The ending itself was anticlimactic, because honestly, it took about one page to “solve” Wulfric’s 15-year abomination problem.
3 out of 5 cookies!