“As SPFBO 7 is nearing its conclusion, my friends on FanFiaddict and I are reviewing and rating one of our favorite books in the competition for this year. Here are our thoughts along with the blurb of the book and author bio.”
Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?
Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.
Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?
Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
Our Reviews & Ratings
The character of Tashué Blackwood is by far one of the most developed and fully realized characters I’ve come across ever. The world is incredible. Every single thing worked.
While it’s a bit overlong and only the first act of a story, Legacy of the Brightwash is an incredible read. Each character is drawn so well and stands on its own. The political intrigue was top notch and I didn’t want to set the story down. The worldbuilding was interesting and I wanted to learn more about the other cities that populated the area. It’s beautifully written, and it’s one of very few books where I actually really enjoyed the romance. That’s tough to do but Matar pulls it off here. I wish that there had been a stronger conclusion at the end, but it makes me very excited for the next one!
“It’s easy to say ‘should have’ once it’s already too late, isn’t it?”
It is my first time ever as a judge for SPFBO. I am not new to self published books as I have been reading them for the last few years. This was the last book I read for the competition so I feel I should say something about this whole thing. (Stick with me, I promise to get to the book eventually.)
When I first got into the reading world. I was one of those people who thought that self published books aren’t that good. A fact that I learned is very wrong since then and in fact, my favorite book of all time is a self published one! Nowadays the borders between self published and traditionally published books are disappearing. Sanderson’s latest kick-starter is just a huge proof of that.
I think there is a vehement risk taking that the author did with this book. It was a breath of fresh air. There is not anything typical about this book. I kept it for last because it is a chonky book (Some would argue it serves as a coaster too) and I heard mixed things about it. The book is just a mishmash of genres including fantasy, romance, mystery thriller and even politics and the author does her best to commit to all of these genres!
The prose is great. I found myself stopping at sentences and just wishing I could write as eloquently as Matar does. The writing is poetic but without overdoing it. The book is a big one but it was so easy to get into. There was a small part around 30-40% where things slowed down and I felt things needed to pick up soon or I would be bored but fortunately they did after that and I wasn’t bored at all. Actually, when I was reading the last chapter, I wanted more and did not want the book to really end.
“Some orders— some laws— aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, or the men and women who have to pay the price for them.”
I think what makes this book glow is really the characterization and the situations the chaarcters are put into. There is always a dilemma that reflects real life situation specially when it comes to the politics. Tashué is a very unique protagonist, he is a bit older than your typical hero, he is flawed and made a lot of mistakes in the past that he is willing to pay for. And it doesn’t stop at Tashué because the secondary characters are all fleshed out, from his broken son to the chaotic Ishamel and his addicted wife. There was a plethora of awesome characters throughout this book.
The book does have multiple plot threads and it sometimes jumps between them but I think it is all important to weave the final product and some of the acts seemed excessive until all it came together at a later point and gave me that “Aha” moment and thought it is just brilliant!
“Ishmael was so ridiculous. Were it not for the fact that he’d seen the deep well of darkness in the man himself, he would have thought that Ishmael didn’t take anything seriously. But he took everything seriously, and the charm and the jokes and the endless snacks were just his way to protect himself from his own anger. “
Summary: Is the Brightwash a good book? It is an absolute yes from me. I liked the writing, the characters and the plot lines and even that damned cliffhanger. I am happy – and perhaps this is a great thing about the competition – that we can always give points for trying new things!
A person without scars is a person who hasn’t lived much.
It has taken me a while to compose myself long enough to sit down and write this review. There is so much that I could say about Legacy of the Brightwash, so many things that I absolutely adored, and it’s not often that I am moved to silence by something. Krystle Matar has written something truly magical, a tour de force of character building which makes me yearn to be in her world, if only to meet Tashué and crew personally.
The characterization on display throughout Legacy of the Brightwash is some of the best that I have ever seen. The entire cast, down to the characters with the least amount of page time, feel like real people. Krystle has managed to breathe actual life into her world and I truly feel like I know Tashué, Stella, Jason, and all the rest. The interpersonal relationships are filled with nuance and history, and often pathos. Tashué is not a young man when we meet him. He has lived a life full of hardship, heartbreak, and loss, and so have many of the other characters. Our heroes show their scars, from the grizzled war hero to the single mother on the run from her past to the son paying for the mistakes of his father. Innocence flows from the world as swiftly as the currents of the Brightwash flow through the city of Yaelsmuir. One thing that I found really refreshing is the absence of the militant revolutionary from humble beginnings, rising up to take the fight to the bourgeoisie. Tashué is a cog in the machine of empire, a loyal G-man, and yet when he finds out that the government which he gave so much of himself to is not as infallible as he once believed, he doesn’t take out his gun and assassinate the rulers, he goes to the press. There is something to be admired there, I think.
Stella knew enough about loss and grief to know that you never really recovered, so much as you learnt to go on living even though you were falling apart.
The world that our characters inhabit influences them as much as the things they have lived through. Yaelsmuir, the Victorian-esque gaslamp city in which the story takes place, and the Dominion proper is one of those eerily prescient constructs in fantasy that mirror real life in so many ways that you wonder if the author has some foreknowledge of what is to come. A bureaucratic, imperialist nightmare constantly taking from the poor to fund their foreign wars of expansion, and yet also one in which genuinely good people work to try to fix things. Laws are written and rewritten, politicians jostle for ranking, and crime syndicates undermine everything while favors are traded for a blind eye.
While a lot of the some 700 pages of Legacy of the Brightwash are taken up by exposition and dialogue, there is also plenty of action and quite a bit of steaminess between various characters. This is not a boring book, with new revelations and twists flying at you at every turn. Most of the action comes in the form of pugilistic scraps, gunfire, city-wide foot chases, and one particularly spectacular explosion. It also features one of the most believable romances that I’ve ever read. I don’t normally “go” for romance in fantasy, as it’s often cheesy or unrealistic, but Krystle handles it with deftness and grace. Tashué and Stella can sit proudly next to the best of the best.
There were some people in your life that you searched for constantly, praying that they would appear just so that you could know they still graced the world.
I also want to mention some of the social commentary that is woven into the story. A lot of narrative focus is placed on the other. Front and foremost are the Tainted, or the Talented depending on who you ask. These are the people who are born with magic and have “quickened”, or reached magical maturity. Talent/Taint can be bent to many things depending on skill, training, and raw potential, such as healing or even powering the different technologies that the Dominion relies on (i.e., the brights, a type of clean burning light source, and the powered train the runs through Yaelsmuir.) Even so, the talented are officially known as the Tainted and are required to register with the Regulation Authority, the branch of government whose sole purpose is to control them, after which they have their own personal Regulation Officer (like Tashué) assigned to watch their every move to ensure that they are always in compliance with the law. They are not allowed to have unapproved use of their magic, they are forbidden from unapproved fraternization, and they must always perform the job they were assigned. Failure to comply leads to imprisonment in the Rift, the Residential Institute for Feral Tainted, a sort of Alcatraz style stone fortress in the middle of the Brightwash, or maybe the Directed Breeding Program, where the powerful are forced to pump out child after child for the Dominion to take and bend to their will. The Talented/Tainted are thus dehumanized, made less than so that the Authority can exploit their abilities for their gain. More subtly though, Krystle tackles issues of race, colonialism, cultural identity, and non-heteronormativity.
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful story full of pain, betrayal, love and found family and friendship, of sacrifice and reclamation, and of what depths a parent will reach to protect their child. Not a word is wasted here, with everything written lending a depth of character and storytelling that I don’t often see. Books like this make me believe in the magic of storytelling, cementing in me the idea that reading can be a transformative experience. Legacy of the Brightwash is as close to perfection as a book can get.
And in the quiet moments after, when he was trying to sleep and his whole body ached, his mind flashed him through all the fights he could still remember. But instead of clear pictures and rational thoughts, it was just a jumble of pain and blood and guilt. Because the fights in Cattle Bone Bay ended with a count and the ring of a bell. The fights before ended in graves.
Final Rating = 9.375
Rounded Up = 9.5
About the Author
Krystle Matar has been writing for a long time, but things got serious when Tashué Blackwood walked into her life, an amber-eyed whirlwind.
When she isn’t arguing with him or any of his friends, she parents and farms. She has a lot of children and even more animals and one very excellent husband.
She is currently working on lots of stories set in the Dominion. She expects to exist in this universe for a while.