Among the volcanoes beneath Mira’s frozen lands, people like Ig are forced to undergo life-threatening trials that bind chemical elements to the human body. One of Mira’s most powerful elementals, Ig works in secret as an enforcer for the corrupt Magnate Sorrelo Adriann, but is cursed with flesh binding magic — magic that will kill him at the first sign of disobedience. His days are spent hunting down anyone who would oppose the magnate, a shell of his old self who clings to old memories and his budding friendships with the magnate’s son and daughter.
When Sorrelo is overthrown in a coup and the country is thrown into chaos, Ig quickly learns he can do far worse than what Sorrelo has asked from him so far. If he can’t rediscover the person he was and escape the flesh binding in time, he will have to kill countless innocents as Sorrelo and his allies seek to reclaim the throne, or sacrifice himself trying.
What a cover. The level of detail on the skin being burnt is really high plus it’s a really cool cover that can be a theme across The Rift Walker series with each cover either featuring the same hand but maybe more and more damaged or potentially instead of burning, the next fist could be frozen. Lots of potential to help it stand out from the shelf and it will be interesting to see how this is done as the books are released.
When I got an arc for this book I read the first couple of pages and was immediately pulled into this new world Clay had created. Unfortunately, I had to put it off for a few months because I was busy reading some of the trilogy reads in The SFF Oasis discord and didn’t want to fall behind on them. Well I finally managed to get around to it this week and I have some thoughts.
FoM primarily follows the story of a man called Ig (Igneous Rock?). Ig is a servant to the ruler of the city of Augustin and he controls Ig using word magic. If Ig disobeys a command he will eventually die from pain in his head so he is forced to do his master’s bidding. That is until something goes wrong and thus kickstarts the story.
Ig isn’t alone on this story as there are other characters. People like Emil, Mateo and Sara to name just a few and they each have their own chapters, personalities and goals but for me Ig was my favourite. I think because he has to follow his master’s orders, and some of these involved killing people, Ig was stuck doing the dirty work. Add onto that the fact that no-one else knows about this word magic and Ig becomes an unpopular figure quickly. He actually faced so many moral dilemmas it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.
I liked the roles of the other characters and each felt like they played their own part but I just found the overall character depth lacking slightly in parts, which prevented me from connecting to some of them deeply which is something I really like getting from a story. This is potentially because it’s in first person and I prefer third person.
The magic in this book is definitely something I would class as magic. However, it is not magic in the sense of wands and spells. It’s more raw than that and to be fair, it really fits the setting so it isn’t one of the issues I had. The word magic and without spoiling anything, the Imbibing, work really well. I only wish there was a slightly clearer explanation about the Imbibing mechanics so I could fully immerse myself. It shares some mechanics with Mistborn and I felt that Mistborn had little info drops that helped. This isn’t to say that Clay hasn’t explained it but I found the nitty gritty specifics hard to grasp (might just be me, I do have ADHD).
The worldbuilding is where I would say that this story really sets itself apart. Set in a fully fictional world underground the planet’s surface where the lower levels in Augustin are warm and for the rich, the higher, colder levels are for the poor. Don’t even think about going onto the surface or you will freeze to death, literally. There is a lot of potential to have this turn into a story whereby humanity has had to move into the Earth’s core over thousands of years and maybe a radioactive war on the surface has created the various creatures that feature in the story. The giant insects and other creatures were well imagined and I really enjoyed when the giant insects made their appearance as I felt it really fit the story well and provided another level of fantasy immersion.
This is a good debut by Clay Harmon but for me personally I felt that a couple of things prevented me from loving it. Firstly this is written in first person, so each chapter is a re-telling of events by the MC of their own chapter. Secondly, this is a plot driven story. The whole story revolves around an action point which generates the plot for the MC which then drives the individual characters to react and choose their personal goals. Personally I much prefer third person stories that are character driven with a small plot but big emphasis on character growth.
So, if you enjoy plot driven or first person fantasy stories, I expect you will enjoy Clay’s debut. It features an underground world, giant insects, betrayal, magic, lava, sellswords and more. I’ll go further and say that this feels like a hybrid of Mistborn+Red Rising+Clay Harmon so if you enjoyed either of those franchises I expect you’ll enjoy this.
The book is out in July and you can pre-order this now in physical, eBook and audiobook formats.