After the brutal execution of Provenci’s King by the roving forces of Tarraz, a new military government vaults into power with the nefarious Alvarez at the helm. Hell-bent on bloodshed and the glory of an imperial past, he amasses the largest army seen in a generation and plunges the two nations into a bloody war, against the will of the god-like being known as the All-Mother.
Cavara, a general of the army at odds with her superiors over the war, is ground under the heel of the scheming Commander Revek and betrayed by her own people, left for dead on a distant shoreline. Saved by a passing ship and taken to the other end of the world, she is plagued by visions of a white void and a figure known as the Shadow Woman, who begins to unravel the true nature of the war – a conflict not only of men, but also of gods alike.
In a story of hope, power, greed and hatred, all are driven mad by the enemy within – none are safe from the Fangs of War.
“Hell was borne here… and we are its witness.”
This is a self-published novel which follows the tale of a war that comes about after the murder of the King of Provenci, by the people of Tarraz. Alvarez begins a new military government in the country, against the wishes of the All-Mother, a god-like being. We follow several characters within this set up including Cavara, a general who is unsure which side to take on the looming war, and Revek, a commander who is out for power, bloodshed and to make the Tarrazi know where they stand.
The writing in this book captured me from the very first page. For a debut novel I was so pleasantly surprised by the prose here. It’s just the right level of descriptive, slightly complex detail to stand out from the crowd without being too purple or flowery at all. I found it really fitted the story and painted the picture of a world hanging in the balance between peace and destruction perfectly. I just loved it, and can’t wait to see where Doble goes as a writer.
I would definitely categorise this story as grimdark, and would advise that those of you who feel the need should make sure you check trigger warnings going in. There is plenty of bloodshed to be found here. Heads roll, there are guts a’plenty and chests are hacked right open. I really liked the tone the author sets overall, despite grimdark not being something I can handle all the time. It’s brutal, unforgiving and the book really captures the presence of the looming war as the backdrop for this whole story. The consequences of warfare are something touched on in so many ways throughout the novel, through lots of small details. The effect warfare has on individuals really comes through in the conversations, observations and outlook of these characters. This was something I found I really appreciated.
The characters were something that immediately stood out to me. We follow several POV characters who are all on their own journeys. My favourite was probably Markus, but I enjoyed them all. I liked how nearly everyone, bar one or two, were never painted as clearly ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Everyone has flaws and tensions they are working through, different motivations that can be seen from a variety of perspectives. The author does a great job of making the characters well rounded. Even the characters I wanted to shove into a brick wall I found myself rooting for.
There is a lot of diversity too, with some strong female characters who I really loved. Savanta is so troubled by what she goes through and her story was both wonderful and difficult to read at the same time. Jinx was someone I wasn’t expecting to love so much by the end of the book. She doesn’t have that many chapters but when she did I just wanted more. I found the dialogue was also really wonderful. It felt very true to life and was used so well to develop character arcs and convey information to the reader.
The author also throws in a few chapters here and there from the point of view of other ‘random’ people in the world, which at first seemed a bit odd but I personally really loved what this adds to these scenes. Seeing the events play out from the point of view of a bystander is something I don’t see done often but I really appreciated it here.
One aspect that I found grated on me was that there were some moments where certain characters’ inner thoughts treaded slightly into the ‘villainous monologue’ territory. This got old pretty fast for me, but as said above, the writing is still so well done that this is a pretty minor setback in an otherwise fantastic read. I also saw one of the ‘twists’ coming so the tension building towards that scene didn’t quite land for me personally and a few scenes felt repetitive because of it. However, again, this is minor.
Book two in this series, The Horns of Grief, is out now and I’m so excited to see how this story continues.