Path of Ruin is the 1st book in Tim Paulson‘s Arcane Renaissance Saga.
I received this book from a giveaway sponsored by the author in his newsletter. Hugely recommend you subscribing, as not only do you get exciting updates, the author is making an Arcane Renaissance novella available for free and you get a further sneak peek into this world.
Path of Ruin is currenly free on Kindle Unlimited.
|Series: Arcane Renaissance Saga #1||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: December 5th 2019||Publisher: Self-Published|
Ancient sorcery has produced a glorious new world that hides a terrible secret…
Henri left his career and fled to the frontier to protect his son. Out here he thought his greatest worry would be keeping the old forge hot enough to make piles of nails and horseshoes for the locals. He was wrong.
Goliath knight Mia does not belong. She’s a loner who’s never questioned where the power of her weapons came from or where her orders lead her. All of that is about to change.
When the armies of Baron Halett and the Holy Ganex Empire clash, Henri’s greatest fears will be realized when his boy is infected by nineteen twisted souls. A mysterious figure offers a solution but only if Henri does exactly as instructed, should this person be trusted? Henri has no choice but to set out with Mia on a desperate quest through a world at war to save the child before he is consumed…
“That obnoxious twit at the tax collector’s office who’d come to assess his business’s worth to the crown and had the audacity to refuse to be bribed.”
Path of Ruin is expertly named after the staggering turn of events that pursue you until its last page.
The first in the Arcane Renaissance Saga, it melds the ancient and the modernly transitional into a sharp story. As it does so, it somehow takes the seemingly obverse and builds a cohesive narrative with characters that make you care for them as you laugh at their antics.
One might think that ancestral sorcery, industrialism, and capitalist ventures would be unable to coexist harmoniously in a story that just makes sense, but this story quickly shatters such expectations.
The change between a scenery where pistols have been invented for more than half a century and scientific experiments are breaking barriers between reality, and another where wood trolls and sentient trees exist in a classic display of the fantastical may sound like building a puzzle whose parts are too mismatched to fit. Bows and suits of armor have long fallen out of use after all, and what is fantasy without some of its defining elements?
Yet even at the expense of some of our favorite fantasy elements, or well, perhaps essentially because of it, Paulson builds a world where so much of the ancient remains that what creeps in of modernity cannot erase it. In fact, it wouldn’t even exist without it.
It’s more than the metal-stone, gigantic, magic-powered golems that just look so damn cool and add extra vigor to the battle scenes. These Goliaths would make one hell of a ride to work, true, but they’re a tiny piece of the aforementioned puzzle.
Wood trolls, magic-wielders, and alternative dimensions that act as power sources for hidden capitalist interests all live in tandem, and it’s that breathing, working mechanism of antithesis that not only feeds the story, but makes it just different enough to stand out.
There’s something unique about this type of transitional fantasy that makes you feel as if you’re on the verge of momentous change.
Paulson takes the suspense of that change and joins two contrasting storylines eventually meeting in the middle: one picking up on magic and sorcery, the other adopting a more modern face, but both convincingly connected. And as they start to meet, we begin to realize maybe History is a circle, endlessly repeating itself.
Some of these worldbuilding elements and climactic moments were not approached as deeply as I prefer, which might just stem from my love for hard (magic) systems and a focus on emotional narrative at defining times. I just like full descriptions and I cannot lie.
Still, there were many interesting elements to this story and a well of growing questions that tied in with one of the most entertaining casts I’ve ever read, making this a really enjoyable read.
With multiple POVs, the characters’ quirks are present in their observations, their habits, their banter, and it gives them an actual personality that adds a welcome sense of humor, and at times silliness, to the story.
Not to mention the kickass moments that made me raise my hands in communion.
No other way to say it other than I felt accompanied. Oftentimes I was laughing at something a character said and I found myself looking sideways expecting to share a laugh with someone.
Not sure if that says more about me or about the fact the characters felt like being among my idiotic group of friends (I use that adjective with the utmost affection. We all thrive among equals, after all). Granted, in this scenario we know how to throw daggers and face flesh-eating demons, but still. It felt familiar, is what I mean.
I like books that know how to be both significant and not take themselves too seriously at all times, and if you’re like me I urge you to read for yourself.
I’ll be picking up the 2nd installment in the series very soon, curious if I’ll get more deliverance on what I personally needed from the worldbuilding and the climactic moments of the story. But more than that, I’m driven by the curiosity left behind by that stunning hell of a cliffhanger.
Paulson’s work is the perfect counterpoint to anyone discrediting the value of SFF as “not real enough”. It builds clear parallels to our world and critiques the politics and workings of our contemporary society. How did it come to be so? Who owns the power, truly, and how and why have they seized such control?
Path of Ruin explores answers to those questions, and delivers a clever, entrancing story that garners surprise after surprise until its very end.