Review: THE BLADED FAITH by David Dalglish

Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 463
Release Date: April 5th, 2022
Series: THE VAGRANT GODS, Book 1
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

When Prince Cyrus was fourteen, the Everlorn Empire arrived on his island, slaughtering his gods and executing his parents. For two years, he’s been a political hostage, until a resistance cell manages to rescue him during an attack. Determined to free his people, Cyrus spends the next years training to be a lethal assassin, a mysterious champion to rally the people of Thanet to rebellion. But when your opponents are divine warriors of super-human strength, drastic measures have to be taken to ensure victory. What sacrifices are too much to bring freedom to a people?

THE BLADED FAITH is a bloody book about the messiness of empire and rebellion. Neither side has their hands clean as they clash over the future of this tiny island nation. Sure, the Everlorn Empire is easy to villainize (deservedly so) with its executions, persecutions, and forced conversion to its religion. But in the quest to reclaim their homeland, our little band of rebels are willing to do some increasingly dark acts, and the question of “How far is too far?” constantly hovers in the background.

THE BLADED FAITH is a little rough around the edges at the start, jumping around a bit and throwing you into the middle of some pretty significant events in a disorienting manner before finally settling into a prolonged training sequence for Cyrus. At first I wasn’t sure about the several chapters dedicated to the years Cyrus spends training, but I came to appreciate them as I realized just how much of this story is Cyrus’s evolution. For much of Cyrus’s life, he’s been a figurehead in one fashion or another, first as a hostage-puppet to give a ruling regime some legitimacy, then being positioned as the mysterious leader of Thanet’s rebellion (despite the real strings being pulled elsewhere). Cyrus gradually realizes how little he knows about the real world due to his life of forced seclusion; his journey is one of coming to grips with harsh truths and deciding if the path he’s been forced onto is truly where he wants to be.

If I had one small complaint about Cyrus’s character development, it’s that he has absolutely no reaction to his first battle and first kill. I get that Cyrus has witnessed extreme brutality, but it’s one thing to see it and another thing entirely to take a life, even if its “only” Guard Number 3. For someone who seems keenly sensitive and unsure of himself for so long, I would have expected that to have been a bigger moment, but it goes unremarked.

There are other characters around to help Cyrus on his journey, from steadfast paladin Rayan to the unassuming Mari who has somewhat unnerving abilities. I was particularly drawn to axe-wielding Stasia, a woman unwaveringly devoted to chopping down the Empire one soldier at a time – until she finally finds a person worth laying down her axe for. Then there’s Thorda, the real leader of the rebellion, a man who plays his cards extremely close to his vest; even his own people can never be sure what the true aim of any maneuver is, only that somehow it’s feeding into his master plan to shatter the Everlorn Empire into pieces.

I do love a world where gods are real and influencing the world, and that’s on display here in THE BLADED FAITH. All nations have their own gods and religions, or at least they used to until the Everlorn Empire started conquering them all, killing their gods in the process. Paladins or other wielders of divine power have super-human strength and abilities, making for some impressive displays of magic. This is particularly true in the finale, a massive battle which is full of character-defining moments.

But this is only book one in a trilogy, and while some victories are had, the author has set up even more dark times ahead. Some secrets of the Everlorn Empire’s agenda are still being kept close to the vest, but some late arrivals at the end of the book promise things are going to get worse before they get better. And what secrets have been unmasked have been impressive, including a jaw-dropping reveal I did not see coming (and having called one twist early, I was delighted to be outfoxed in the end). If Dalglish’s previous books THE KEEPERS are a good indicator, things are only going to escalate going forward and I’m on board to see where things go.

Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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