Along the Razor's Edge by Rob J. Hayes
Somehow, in the last few... years, I managed to remain oblivious to how busy the current publishing scene is - especially when it comes to fantasy.
Looking at the number of books that are coming out every day, it's often difficult to find the next read. Sometimes it takes hours looking at the synopsises and reading reviews before I can decide which book is coming home with me. Sometimes - a glance at the cover art, or a happy little accident of getting my hands on a book I probably would not have considered otherwise.
After parting my ways with Never Die, I was curious about other works from the same author - there was something in the way he weaved the story, which made me want to explore his creations. So I got two of his books to discover. This work is not one of them. This is a happy accident.
When Rob announced that Along The Razor's Edge is coming close to release date, I jumped to the opportunity to get ARC and provide a review. Partly - I've never done that before, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. Also - the book goblin in me simply could not resist knowing the story before the official release date.
Lo and behold, here's my honest review of the first part of the trilogy.
The story is told by a woman, Eskara Helsene, and it's an account of her life, which, for her, has begun the moment the Empire she fought for lost the war.
A few words about the plot: Eskara is a Sourcerer - she learned how to use the magic of Sources in the Orran Academy of Magic. Taken away from her family at a very young age, she trained along with her friend, Josef, to become a weapon. They both put their talents to use during the war with Terrelan Empire.
After the Orran Empire lost the war, they were both imprisoned in the Pit - an underground work camp filled with pointless digging, sweat, and blood. Without her magic, Eskara is just a young girl amongst other prisoners. Armed with only her wit and determination, she's trying to survive and hopes to escape.
Thanks to the first-person narrative and a subtle, yet effective use of foreshadowing reading Along the Razor's Edge felt almost like a personal audience with an older, powerful woman, forged in the fire of her experiences and hardened by the battles she fought. She recalls the events with passion, anger, regrets, and some foul language (understandable, having the circumstance in mind).
The worldbuilding is innovative. In Eskara's world, magic does not come free - it is drawn from powerful Sources, which need to be ingested by the Sourcerer to use their magic. There are many types of Sources allowing the Sourcerer to control time, elements, emotions, or summon monsters from the Other World, to mention just a few. Not everyone can use them all - an individual needs to be attuned to the specific type of the Source to use it. However, all Sources all have one trait in common - each of them poses a treat to the wielder. Being attuned means that the Source can be retained in the stomach for longer, but given time, it will be lethal nonetheless.
The characters are a strong suit of the story. I must admit - the main protagonist was barely likeable to me. I wanted to think that, in Eskara's shoes, I would make different choices. I can understand what drives her, but if she was a real person, we certainly wouldn't be friends.
When it comes to other characters, they are varied and nuanced. As the events unfolded, I had a love-hate relationship with brothers, Hardt and Isen, and with Yorin, who seemed a single-minded killing machine. As it turns out, nothing is ever so simple, and Rob rarely uses clearly defined black and white elements to paint the picture. The subtle shades allow the reader to make their own mind.
Bonus points for beautiful cover art!
Along the Razor's Edge is out now, and the other two books will complete the trilogy not too long after.
Having experienced the first part, I eagerly await a chance to hear from Eskara about what happens next.
-----Along the Razor's Edge On Goodreads