No one escapes the Pit.
I keep telling myself to go back and get to reading Rob’s earlier works. I first discovered his obvious talent by reading Where Loyalties Lie, winner for SPFBO 3, and loved the world he created and the characters even more. But alas, I have only been reading his new work as fast as they come and they just keep getter better and better. This book left me with my mouth hanging open not knowing whether to laugh at the ending, or cry with despair that the story stops there in volume one.
Along the Razor’s Edge begins a explosive new saga titled The War Eternal. This is a dark, dangerous, violent story, that tells the tale of Eskara Helsene from a first person perspective. Although first person can be tricky, Hayes pulls this off with aplomb. The characterizations remain strong regardless and the dialogue is a treat. The claustrophobic darkness of the pit, was palpable and I found it compares well to Faithless by Graham Austin-King in this respect. It’s a crushing miasma of hopelessness, and misery in that darkness that is conveyed so well it will make you crave the sun.
Eskara, at the tender age of six, is removed from her parents and a quiet village in the forest, to be placed in the Orran Academy of Magic. There she befriends Josef, age 8, and the two become inseparable. The bond between the two is as strong as sibling twins. Both are strong Sourcerers, capable of wielding five magics, or mancy’s, each. Eskara is a fierce young girl, she never stops pushing the boundaries of those who oppress her, regardless of the punishment she’ll receive, which is inevitable. Josef helps balance her with his non-combatant attitude and fierce loyalty.
The magic system is unique and very costly to the wielder. Many types of it can age, kill, or drive a Sourcerer insane in very little time. Those sources, in the form of a gemstone of various sizes to which a soucerer is attuned won’t kill them, only as long as they aren’t ingested for too long a time. That’s right, they have to swallow them. What’s worse, is they have to bring them up again, to protect themselves and those around them. Those to which they are not attuned will kill them in minutes. The grueling process of discovering a potential sourcerer’s magic attunments is more akin to torture than training.
The Orrans trained these two children for a decade to become their best weapons in the war against the Terralans. Propagandized and taught by images to numb them against the horrors of battle, they become formidable powers against their enemies. By age 15, Eskara and Josef are battled hardened sourcerers in a war they have already lost. The result is The Pit. There is where Eskara’s story truly begins in the present.
People will do anything they must if they have the will to survive but to do so means there must be hope, and when people in the pit lose that hope, death often quickly follows. Like any prison, alliances are crucial and Eskara has never been able to hold her tongue. Without the bonds she forms with her crew mates, the hatred and cruelty of their foreman, Prig, would have killed her in short order. Her hatred and need for vengeance against him, and those who put her in the pit, is what she lives for.
With varying timelines, but balanced chapters, Hayes moves us between past and present. In both cases the pacing is brilliant, hard hitting, and by turns terrifying. The world building, is done through Eskara’s point of view, so we see what she sees. This is detailed and presents a more than adequate picture of the setting with it’s dark, cold, and merciless reality. Info dumping is something Hayes has never burdened us with as his prose and characters are more than adequate to put the reader into a well built world.
I found this book incredibly hard to put down and finished it in just two sittings. With high fantasy, fascinating and horrifying characters, monsters, with life and death on the line, Along the Razor’s Edge has compelling storyline that will have fans of Grimdark begging for more.
Click the cover to pre-order your copy today.
* Print Length: 281 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publication Date: March 30, 2020
* Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
* Language: English
* ASIN: B08428719X
About the book:
No one escapes the Pit.
At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.
More great news! Book 2 of The War Eternal, The Lessons Never Learned, has just revealed its cover over at BookNest.Eu and man, it’s a beauty! We don’t have a blurb, since book one is not yet released, but we are drooling over this volume, not just for the cover art, but the anticipation of The Lessons Never Learned, Book Two of The War Eternal series! The cover art, as with book one, is by the ludicrously talented Felix Ortiz and the typography is by the amazing Shawn King.
About Rob J. Hayes
Having served in a hundred different offices as a keyboard monkey Rob J. Hayes finally decided to follow his life long passion of daydreaming. After writing a small horde’s worth of short stories, he released his debut dark fantasy trilogy “The Ties that Bind” in 2013 as an indie publication and followed it up with the steampunk caper “It Takes a Thief to Catch a Sunrise” in 2014.
In 2017 he released his piratical duology, Best Laid Plans, and in 2018 the first book, Where Loyalties Lie won Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.
Rob has now tried his hand at Science-Fiction (Drones, 2018) and Military Fantasy (City of Kings, 2018), and even East-Asian influenced fantasy (Never Die, 2019).
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