Book review: Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson
Author: Joshua Robertson & J.C. Boyd
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Amazon rating: 4.7 Stars
Reviewer: David Wiley
Blurb: Drast, cunning but reckless, is on the hunt for admiration. Tyran, calculating but tactless, is in search of affection. Bound by a friendship thicker than blood, the two brothers have been hardened by their father’s ambitions. Drast and Tyran are forced to set aside their own hopes and dreams during their struggle to fulfill their father’s desire for immortality. The two will face skin-switchers and dragons, ultimately leading to a final clash with Wolos, God of the Dead.
Review: This was an interesting foray into a gritty Dark Fantasy novel, and this was a book that was deserving of placement into that subgenre. The actions of the characters throughout the book, while psychologically understandable at times, make it a struggle to cheer them on, much less care whether they succeed at their task to defeat Wolos, the God of the Dead. There is a lot of evidence throughout that Drast and Tyran have been molded into who they are by their father, who is abusive and power-hungry, which leaves the reader questioning whether the actions of the two brothers are their own fault or if the blame should fall squarely on the shoulders of their father. This is a question that really forms the core of this novel, particularly being explored in the second half of the book.
There was a point, about halfway through, that I had considered setting this book aside and not finishing it. The brothers had both crossed a line that I felt put them into nonredeemable territory. It was tough to pick it back up, but the second half of the book redeemed the rough middle. While neither brother really ever got back to the point where I could cheer for them as protagonists in the tale, it really explored what drove these two brothers to the point they had reached. There were times when I was mad at them for not taking the way out when it presented itself. They could have redeemed themselves completely by taking those choices. But their choices at that point are understandable enough.
The writing by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd is quite masterful. It carried me through some of the rougher patches in the book, allowing me to press on even when I found myself loathing the characters and their choices. The magic system is inventive and has a good balance to it, forcing the user to lose years of their lives through its use. This is not quite as unique like Allomancy in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, but it provides a very real consequence for using, or overusing, the magic in their possession. It is a system that certainly fits the story and the world that they crafted.
As a whole, I am excited to read more stories that take place in the Thrice Nine Legends setting. J.C. Boyd’s Strong Armed was a great entry point, having been short though dark in itself and the questions it forces the reader to grapple with. Ultimately, if you like a fantasy tale that forces you to reflect on some tough questions about human nature, this book will certainly fill that niche for you. If you like grand worlds and interesting settings, or unique magic systems, this book will not disappoint. If you love to read good, quality prose this book will be a nice fit. There are many positives to be seen. When it comes to the violence and actions it can best be compared to Game of Thrones so if you have been able to handle reading, or watching, that you should be just fine getting through the darkest parts of this book. And you will agree, at the end, that it was worth reading.
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