“And again I was reminded that soldiering seemed to be nine parts boredom–waiting, training, erecting or pulling down camps, tedious chores, moving–and one part horrible, sudden, and irrevocable violence.” — Page 26
Chains of the Heretic is the third and final book in The Bloodsounder’s Arc, written by Jeff Salyards. In my opinion, it is arguably the best within the trilogy. I discovered the books accidentally. I managed to get a remote internship with Folio Literary Agency last year, working under the guidance of agent Frank Weimann. There were multiple requirements we had to complete as part of the internship, but one aspect was choosing a few books the agency represented, reading them and reviewing them–positive or negatively. That is how I stumbled upon Scourge of the Betrayer, the first book in the trilogy, represented by Folio’s Michael Harriot.
And I loved it.
You can find a review of the first or second book (titled Veil of the Deserters) on my Goodreads page. Also, if you want proof that I can write more “traditional-esque” than this blog represents, the proof is there. After reading and writing a positive review of the first book, Jeff’s agent asked if I wanted a copy of the second book. I was ecstatic. A free book! Then, when Jeff himself comment on my review on Goodreads, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I was talking with big people: an agent and an author. They were talking to me, thanking me for enjoying a book. It was like talking to celebrities!
I finished the second book with about the same fervor as I did the first, staying up past my bedtime because I couldn’t put it down. I truly thought the books were fantastic. Having the ability to talk with both the agent and the author associated with them was just a really cool and unique bonus I’d never really experienced before. But then, I had to wait with the rest of the world for Chains to come out (it was released this past February). In the meantime, I continued talking with Jeff, even after my internship ended and even completed an interview with him, as part of a project I needed to do for school. It reached the point where, dare I say it, I think we became friends.
When Chains was released, I knew a couple things: one, I was definitely buying this book. While I got the first one from the library and the second one was sent to me for free, the third one was claiming a spot of my coveted bookshelf through the offering of my own pockets. Because that is how you support authors, as well as writing reviews and pushing their books onto your friends (and sometimes, strangers *waves*). Which I’ve done quite a bit with this series, mostly because I want to talk about it with someone. Especially after finishing Chains, which just has so much worthy material to talk about. (So, seriously, someone go and catch up on this series so we can talk. Please.) I also knew that I was going to love this book and be really mad when it ended, as the books have only increased in depth and pleasure-ability (is that even a word? Oh well, you know what I mean) with each new publication.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
There are a lot of aspects that make both this book, and this trilogy, really enjoyable. The characters are by far what drew me in so much. They have a complexity that constantly controls and distorts my emotions to where I can’t really decide how I feel about a character emotionally, as none of them were wholly good or wholly evil, and my feelings constantly change. For example, Mulldoos really irked me in Scourge. Yet by Chains, I found myself to be the first to stick up for him and defend him (though he doesn’t need it). Especially in relation to Azmorgon, who I can safely say is the exception to the rule: I hated him outright and that never changed. But the characters are what kept me reading and made each reading session go over the time I had allotted. Every plaguing time.
But what is so special, I think, about these books, is how real they feel. The quote above captures perfectly what I tried to write in previous reviews and even talked with Jeff about in his interview, yet I don’t think I ever accurately detailed it. The books follow a company as they deal with trials and tribulations during a time of war and unrest. There is plenty of battle and action to be had (especially in Chains). Yet what I appreciated most is that we also saw the “dull” moments. We were there when they cared for their horses, when they were traveling on the road, when they were anxiously waiting to decide their next move or simply resting. Despite being in a different world with absolutely fantastic creatures (the Deserters in this book were particularly awesome), it always felt realistic. And I appreciated that attention to detail.
The other aspect I wanted to highlight that is special to Chains in particular is inspired by editor Sione Aeschliman’s most recent blog post, Your Book’s Darkest Moment. In that post, she talks about what makes the darkest moment in a book, why it is important and where it should happen in a book. Basically, the darkest moment is when you, as the reader, feel that all-is-lost for the characters within the book and truly question whether they will make it or not, because, at that moment, it really looks like not. Having read that blog post just yesterday and finishing Chains only a handful of minutes ago, I realized that Chains doesn’t have just one darkest moment or two: the entire bloody book is a darkest moment.
The book picked up quickly and threw Arki–the archivist who is unfortunate (or perhaps lucky) enough to be at the helm of this story, translating ancient documents to help the Syldoon with their goals while also recording their journey–into peril almost immediately. And I was like, “Well, shit.” And, spoiler, he survives the first moment where I think he is, to put it lightly, screwed. But then there is another moment. And another. And then another. Each one grows and becomes worse until I just don’t know what to think or believe. And, spoiler-that’s-not-really-a-spoiler, not everyone makes it out and not everything goes the way it is supposed to or seems like it is portrayed. By the time I reached the last 20-30 pages, I was frantic. It couldn’t end that quickly. It just couldn’t.
And then it did.
I wasn’t disappointed, however. It hurt–and you’ll only understand why if you read it–but I was also content. It left me with a warm feeling of hope. Within The Bloodsounder’s Arc, Jeff has created a truly beautiful and terrifying world. And we only caught a glimpse of it, traveling with Arki and Captain Killcoin’s band of Jackals. But there is so much more available to be explored or discovered. And though I know Jeff is working on a new book–and I am very excited about the premise of that one–I hold onto a flicker of hope that perhaps he’ll return to this world one day, and let us return with him. I, for one, would be glad to take up the helm and make another journey.
Until then, I’m glad circumstance and chance allowed me to discover these books. They have easily climbed to be some of my favorites amongst the thousands I have read and I look forward to reading books penned by Jeff’s hand for years to come. Trust me, this is a bandwagon you want to jump on. And I hope you tell me about it, when you do.
PS: The best line of this entire book: “You’re plaguing welcome.” Doesn’t make any sense to you now, but once you read it, you’ll understand. And I hope you laugh as much as I did.