Genre: Fantasy — Sword and Sorcery
Series: Tides of War #1
Publisher: Angry Robot (January 3, 2017)
Length: 400 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
As a huge fan of James A. Moore’s Seven Forges series, I was beyond excited to get my hands on an advanced reading copy of his new series. Now, I won’t lie: At first, every page, every new character, every new adventure I read in this new book made me wish I was reading another Seven Forges story. This wasn’t because The Last Sacrifice was boring or less compelling, but because I just love that other sword and sorcery series so much. As I continued on with the novel however, I soon grew to appreciate this tale just as much; the narrative fast paced, inventive, and infused with enough horrific elements to make this one wild ride!
Everything gets rolling when a tough-as-nails mercenary named Brogan returns home to his family. Killer he may be, but Brogan loves his wife and family more than anything. So when he dismounts at his abandoned house, he is immediately alarmed. When he is told by a neighbor that the Grakhul — immortal servants of the gods — took his loved ones away, he is terrified to the core, for the Grakhul only take people they intend to offer to the gods as human sacrifices!
In spite of his overwhelming fear and a life time of awe of the Grakhul, Brogan puts together a rescue party, determined to steal back his family from certain death. The whispered fears from his companions that an attack on the Grakhul is an act of defiance against the gods of no concern to our mercenary. What difference does it make to him if the whole world suffers if he is made to live without his loved ones.
Immediately, innumerable ripples spread across the world from Brogan’s actions. People and places unknown to our bereaved husband and father engulfed in the rising tide of divine wrath. The world itself beginning to teeter upon the edge of ruin, as the anger of the divine pours out upon it!
I hope that description peaks your interest, because The Last Sacrifice is a sword and sorcery tale not to be missed. Another genre blender from James A. Moore, this story pushes the normal limits of standard sword and sorcery, creating a unique and addictive concoction.
First, Mr. Moore provides a heaping dose of horror with his fantasy. Not gore or gloom like so many grimdark offerings, but true horror elements of brooding tension and suspense, terrifying creatures, and skin crawling scenes of good and bad people meeting their end. All of this so perfectly integrated into the mix that they never seem out of place.
Second, the characters are much more than cardboard cut out good guys and bad guys. Each person here is portrayed in their own shade of grey. Good guys do questionable deeds, while villains’ actions are not always evil. Each person given an opportunity to showcase (even if only briefly) the “why” of who and what they are.
Third, while there is action, combat, and supernatural elements galore, the real focus of the narrative is the plot itself. Sure, an author being concerned with the plot isn’t anything unusual, but, in my experience, too many sword and sorcery stories have suffered from the plot being subservient to the action, which might have been fine decades ago when fantasy was more along the lines of pulp fiction, but it does not work today. Readers today expect quality fantasy stories, demanding more from their reading experience than merely a muscle-bound hero with mighty sinews throwing a terrified maiden over his shoulder, as he fights off magical horrors. And Mr. Moore understands this, delivering compelling individual stories along with an epic, overarching adventure tale.
As for deficiencies in The Last Sacrifice, I would point to the over abundance of point of view characters. I personally found there to be too many of them. So many, in fact, I never felt as if they were getting enough page time from their creator. Sure, they all did get repeated turns in the spotlight, but the duration was too short for me to build a strong bond with any of them, which meant I found myself not as emotionally involved in their lives as I would have wished to be. Others might find this a minor issue however, but I felt I should, at least, mention it.
With The Last Sacrifice, James A. Moore has triumphed yet again, delivering a modern sword and sorcery tale to delight old and new fans of the genre. With its intriguing premise, stellar cast of characters, and flavorful horror elements, this is damn good stuff. So good in fact, any reader, whatever genre they prefer, can’t go wrong with picking this novel up and letting themselves be swept up in this epic struggle.
I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.