While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers–those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.
A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea. She never expected that her journey would end in chains.
Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.
When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the dark voice in his mind.
Together, they will change the world–whether they intend to or not.
Voice of War is the self-published, debut fantasy novel from Zack Argyle. I was initially turned on to it a while ago when its cover art was updated to the current masterpiece that you see above. When an opportunity to review its forthcoming sequel, Stones of Light, presented itself then I knew that it was time to jump into this series headlong. And, boy am I glad that I did. With a new cover and a comfortable standing in second place (so far) in this years SPFBO contest, I am hoping that this book and its sequel will finally get the recognition that they deserve.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful the wall is if the garden inside is dying. No one can live like that forever.
Voice of War does so many things right and in a period where I have been reading books that drift farther and farther away from the classics of the genre, this was a refreshing return to home for me. Much like a Brandon Sanderson book, it reads like an heir to classic fantasy, playing to the expectations that we have and using them to its full advantage. Case in point is the worldbuilding. The world that Argyle has created is highly imaginative with several cultures, races and mythical creatures. Each of the countries that you visit throughout the length of the novel are distinctive in the peoples, cultures, religions, and traditions that are on display, from Alchea, which is nestled up against the mountains, to the desert city of Cynosure and beyond, Arasin is a believable world. I was especially taken by the glimpses into the Fairenwild, an ancient forest where all manner of deadly creatures lie around each corner. The chromawolves were equal parts cool and terrifying and I loved getting to see them in action.
For the most part, Argyle did a great job creating believable, flawed characters. Chrys is the Apogee, a wartime hero both lauded and feared for the brutality that he displayed in the War of the Wastelands. While this is something that has elevated his status to that of one of the three high generals to the Great Lord, it is also a badge of shame for him. Chrys not only single-handedly killed hundreds of the wastelanders, he also killed many of his own men in the ensuing carnage. This is a man struggling with the ghosts of the past deeds that have rewarded him most in life. Also, the banter between Chrys’ team was one of the highlights of the book, even though they were only present for a short time. Our other two PoVs are Laurel, a messenger for Zedalum, the hidden city in the Fairenwild, and Alverax, the poor sot who has just came back from death under very mysterious circumstances. I felt that Laurel was the better of the secondary PoVs, with Alverax being the weakest. Although, Alverax’s POV had some of the funniest, laugh out loud moments in the book. Imagine waking up from death, naked and surrounded by corpses, and then having to convince the city watch to let you back in the gates. The issue with his portion of the story stems from the fact that he only appears in the back half of the novel so there wasn’t as much time to build a satisfying character arc.
Better to be naked and mad than dead.
The magic system is an easy standout aspect of Voice of War for me. The basic premise is very reminiscent, again, of Brandon Sanderson’s Allomancy in his Mistborn series, with a little bit of Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer mixed in for good measure. Essentially, children who are born with either blue or green eyes are able to see and control Threadlight, a type of energy that interconnects everything in the world. Sapphire Threadweavers are able to pull on the threadlight connecting an object to the world, while the Emeralds can push it, thereby manipulating the gravity exerted on it. Think telekinesis, but you have to be able to see and manipulate the energy that connects any given object to the world. Threadweavers can even manipulate their own corethreads, giving blues superhuman agility and turning greens into immovable juggernauts. Threadweaving isn’t without its downsides though, as each color has the inherent weakness of only being able to either push or pull on things, thus making blue/green teams necessary. So, you may be wondering what happens to those born with brown eyes. Well, nothing really. They’re just not afforded the elevated status that Threadweavers are given, except in circumstances where a couple have already birthed two children. If a third is born and it’s achromic and unable to wield threadlight, they are ritually blinded and given to the priesthood. Brutal.
I have read some really fantastic books this year and nearly all of them have been by self published authors. The fact that Voice of War can hold its own against my most recent reads is really saying something. I was thoroughly engrossed in the worldbuilding that Argyle managed to fit in Voice of War‘s trim >400 pages and a lot of the character work was handled exceptionally well. While one of the PoVs fell a little flat for me, I greatly enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery at the core of the novel. It would also be very remiss to not mention the whiplash inducing speed at which the climax ran over the last 15% of the book. I’ve never been so happy to have a book 2 immediately available as I was upon finishing this one.
“Some fires burn so bright you spend years finding unbridled coals. One of these days, if you’re not careful one of them will catch fire.”