The Blighted City by Scott Kaelen

Series: The Fractured Tapestry #1 Rating: 3.75/5
Date of Publishing: January 15th 2018 Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy, grimdark
Publisher: self published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 394 Author’s website: https://authorscottkaelen.wordpress.com/the-fractured-tapestry/

Quote of the Book

““Valsana have mercy,” Mallak whispered, his voice little more than a dry croak. But no mercy came. He brooded upon the throne, drained even of despair. As the murmurs of the dead tormented him, King Mallak Ammenfar slipped from this life into the next.

The Goddess had granted that which the king had so craved. Her gift to him was the complete domination of Lachyla, with not even the finality of death to usurp him-because the only true ruler of eternity…is death itself.”

Blurb

To challenge the gods is to invite their wrath. So it is written of Lachyla, the Blighted City, in the Codex of the Ages. But who reads codices? And who really believes the tall stories of the Taleweavers?
Dagra does. If it’s a story about the gods – even a dead god – he believes every word. When his sellsword team is offered a contract to cross the Deadlands and find a burial jewel in the crypts of the Blighted City, Dagra wants no part of it. His companions are undaunted by the legend; to them, the blurred divide between the living and the dead is superstitious nonsense. Completing the contract would earn their guild’s failing reputation a much-needed boost and secure them the bounty of a lifetime. They’re going, with or without him. Torn between the convictions of his beliefs and the importance of his friendships, Dagra reluctantly journeys into the godless region in search of the fabled city. But the Deadlands are only the first challenge.
The sellswords uncover an age-old deception when they learn that Lachyla’s foul seed is much darker than its legend, that its truth must forever remain untold or risk plunging humanity into an eternal nightmare. Snagged on the barbs of the blight, Dagra faces the toughest choice of his life … and of his death.

Personal notes

Request through Twitter but already owned the book.

Song of the Book

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning (The Watchmen Version) by The Smashing Pumpkins

Review

This book made it to the semi-finals in this year’s SPFBO and with good reason. It had to be one of the more interesting takes on the undead that I have read in a while.

A quest to acquire a treasure goes to hell when the Freeblades – Oriken, Dagra, and Jalis enter the Blighted City of Lachyla to retrieve an heirloom.

What seemed like was going to be a pretty standard story – item retrieval in a creepy city that for a very good reason, no one goes to anymore -, surprised me by becoming something deeper than a typical “zombie book”. And I am using that term as a very broad generalization because this book is so much more than what that term implies.

What made this different for me was Lachyla, and its people.

There were quite a few characters between the three groups this story revolves around. Their interactions overlapped and are so tied up in the city, that to talk about some of their actions will cause spoilers and one of the best parts of this story is learning about the city through the characters. Because of that I’m going to just touch on a few of the characters that left bigger impressions with me.

There is a bit of a friendship story between Oriken, Dagra, and Jalis. Mostly between the men though, because they knew each other from childhood. Like men who have grown up together they tend to have this ongoing relationship where they spend half as much time pushing each other’s buttons, as they do getting along. I did enjoy that part of their relationship.

Jalis – I felt she could have used a little more fleshing out sooner. She was the buffer between the men and I enjoyed the hints of their friendship. She also dropped critical information when needed but didn’t get a lot of screen time until the last part of the book, where we get more of her thoughts.

Eriqwen – really liked her and her sister Adri.

Demelza – she was one of those characters I wanted to like, but really didn’t. Maybe it was intentional, because a lot of the other characters seemed to feel the same.

Sabrian – He was interesting and I wanted more of his story.

Maros– Liked him, though I felt like his parts outside the beginning were unnecessary.

The City of Lachyla everything to do with it was interesting, atmospheric, and the “Mother” gave me some serious Forgotten Realms vibes. I loved the legend of the Goddess Valsana, King Mallak and the way the whole gloomy feel to its tale casts a pall over the city of Lachyla, right into the present day – adding this layer of sadness, desolation, and a general creepiness; especially when our Freeblades first entered the graveyard. Very well done.

And I loved everything from the stones to the almost symbiotic relationship between the surrounding city and its people, it was pretty cool and got away from the usual undead tropes, while still being familiar.

I kept thinking I knew where things were going, sometimes I would be right, but most of the time the story would veer just ever so slightly, giving me more questions than answers.

As the pieces fell together and I understood the relationships between the inhabitants of outer city/graveyard, inner city/castle keep and Minnow’s beck, the revelations had me thinking about things, people, relationships etc., and I really liked that this book surprised me by going off on a different path by becoming something more substantial and thoughtful in nature.

Those were the parts of the book that worked the best for me, found the most interesting and what kept me coming back. I like a book that lets me speculate.

I had a harder time staying interested once we left the city. The last twenty percent or so, could have been a lot tighter or some of it even in another book – other than the farewell. The grief, anger, sadness, etc. at the loss of loved ones was palpable and even made me a bit weepy for the survivors.

This story left me with such a distinct sadness. The feelings of what is life really, when you’re existing but not living, or having purpose? When you can gather no happiness from the moments? I feel like there should be a life message in here and it’s all very bittersweet. I suspect some of these character’s choices will stay with me for a long time after the last page.

This was a great read and worth checking out, but don’t go in expecting some surface deep only ‘hack and slash’, this one is a lot ‘thinkier’ in nature than you’d imagine.

This review was written by Jennifer (BunnyReads)

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