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.
A magnificent follow up to the Justice of Kings, the Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan expands on the worldbuilding and delivers an epic return to the world of Sir Konrad Vonvalt.
I heartily enjoyed the Justice of Kings when I first read it just over a year ago and have been eagerly awaiting the sequel. The Justice of Kings was a mash up of epic fantasy and detective story with a dash of cosmic horror. The Tyranny of Faith takes the series in a different direction, doubling down on the horror elements and pushing the mystery stuff to the side a bit.
The story is still narrated by Helena, Justice Vonvalt’s protégée, and picks up directly after the end of the first book. Right away, this book is much larger in scope. While the first one centered on a few towns in the north and a mystery far from the center of the Empire, in Tyranny, we’re immediately thrust into the heart of the Empire of the Wolf.
Our crew of Vonvalt, Helena, Bressinger, and Sir Radomir arrive in the city of Sova, the capital of the Empire, and things quickly take a dark turn. As we (and the cast) get embroiled in a world of politics, we begin to see the degradation of Vonvalt. Events transpire that elevate him to a new place of power which makes for a very different story than in the first. We begin to see sides we hadn’t seen of the Empire. Gone is the crystal clear black and white that Helena envisioned. Now we see the world full of shades of grey.
And here lies the magic of the Tyranny of Faith. In Justice, we had a pretty clear picture of who Vonvalt was through Helena’s eyes. Now, we slowly get a different picture of who our favorite Justice is. I won’t spoil what happens, but I love when a book confronts you as a reader as to who you think a character is and who you think they should be. The Tyranny of Faith becomes a very apt name in more than one way.
At first, this rubbed me the wrong way. I knew who Vonvalt was – we had a whole book of history with him! But slowly I realized that I was reading Helena’s version of the story – we’re not in his head but hers. I love when authors do with this with narration. (The Fitz books by Robin Hobb being my favorite example). Hats off to Richard Swan for pulling this off.
Helena was pretty passive in the first book, but here she fully comes into her own. Many of the books best moments come from her actions and her relationships with the rest of their motely crew. I enjoyed the side characters in Justice of Kings, and here they shone once more. Bressinger and Sir Radomir are both great characters and their relationship with Helena is what helps to drive this story.
As to the plot of Tyranny, we still get a bit of a mystery, but it was less central to the narrative than I expected. At first it feels like a distraction from the big moves and plot points of the first act, but by the end it tied in very nicely to the whole story.
One of the most unexpected parts of the first book was the undertones of horror that we got with the magic system. Here, we get a doubling or even tripling down on that cosmic horror. The last third of the book has some epic scenes that are now etched into my mind and doesn’t shy away from some brutal and visceral descriptions.
I honestly don’t have too much more to say – this book raised the stakes and turned into a gritty character-focused cosmic horror fantasy novel. I loved it and I hope you do too. If that sounds up your alley, go pick this one up when it releases tomorrow. Bring on book three!!
*Thanks to Orbit for a copy in an exchange for a review*
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