The Obsidian Heart is a prime example of a second book in a series that actually works. Here Mark T. Barnes has taken all the amazing world-building from The Garden of Stones, added to it a story that immediately sucks you into that mesmerizing world and then mercilessly hauls you along for an amazing ride with both its heroes and villains. Well written and conceived, this second act of the Echoes of Empire saga is quite simply a wonderful piece of fantasy literature and reinforces that Mr. Barnes is a brilliant new voice in the field; one that every fantasy fan should take notice of.
Continuing where the first book ended, The Obsidian Heart finds the fate of the Shrīanese Federation hanging in the balance. Indris Dragon-Eye and his friends are recovering from their previous battles and awaiting the despicable Corajidin’s trial before the ruling body of the Federation at the capital of Avenweh. But while the formalities of a trial must be met, everyone expects the determination of guilt to be quickly accomplished, for the evidence of Corajidin’s diabolical and bloodthirsty actions are overwhelming. However, as he showed in The Garden of Stones, Corajidin is not a man easily cowed by the greatest reversals of fortune, so instead of desperately trying to hold onto his rulership of House Erebus, he determines to roll the dice of chance yet again, willing to risk all, do all, break every moral code, and surrender everything – including his very soul! – in order to turn his supposed moment of shame into one of glory and become Asrahn of his people!
Sounds great, right?
And it is. Where The Garden of Stones created a world and set the table for an epic adventure The Obsidian Heart delivers on that promise in spectacular style! Here Mr. Barnes shows real progression in his storytelling ability, jettisoning some annoying writing habits and sharpening the focus of the story into more easily digested scenes. The action is fast and furious when it comes, the stakes fought for are higher, the moral choices more serious, and – above all else – the character’s come to life. Where before Indris was merely an intriguing magic user with a lost love, he now becomes a man of destiny, forced to deal with the consequences of his actions and come to terms with his past and his growing love for his enemies daughter. Mari, daughter of Corajidin and lover of Indris, really begins to shine in this novel, showing herself as a confident and skilled warrior who knows here place in the world but struggles against the inevitable that somehow she did not have to choose between her love for her father and her honor. And the “bad” guy himself, Corajidin, dazzles in his darkness, willingly falling into a deeper and more deliberate evilness, as his ambition seemingly overwhelms all sense of restraint. And as these characters strut and bound across the pages of The Obsidian Heart, they weave a breathless tale of power, betrayal, hope, and above all else love.
As you can no doubt tell, I really enjoyed this novel. In fact, I have loved the whole series thus far and wish that more of my reading friends knew about it. If not for stumbling upon The Garden of Stones on Netgalley and really liking the cover (I am a cover purchaser, I admit it.), I might have never even taken the time to try out this intriguing series. Thankfully, I did see it, and now, I am a Mark T. Barnes and Indris Dragon-Eye fan for the foreseeable future. So if you’re looking for an interesting fantasy world that is different from the rest, then I highly recommend this series, but do start with The Garden of Stones, otherwise you will be playing catchup with all the interesting world-building and lore.
I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank both of them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.