Thanks to everyone who still came back after last week’s existential cry for help. (Bonus thanks to Venusian breaker of things, Dominique Tipper!) This week, we have the elusive blog post on a single subject (minus this introduction). I’ve been told focused articles with some underlying narrative are more intriguing to readers, but who knows? So I apologize if you came here for a smorgasbord of apophenia. More fractured writing should resume shortly, so bookmark this blog in case it becomes relevant to your interests. We’ll be doing more Deadpool soon, & Toy Fair is bound to incite me to rambling. Oh, I’ll eventually throw in something related to my rookie author career. There will definitely be another podcast interview by month’s end. Maybe I’ll finally get around to writing those long promised behind-the-scenes character profiles for the inhabitants of The Dolorous Adventure Of Brother Banenose? Nah, I’ll probably get distracted by whatever’s great or irritating on TV again. That’s the way to sell books, right? Really slow weeks will feature cat pictures. Luckily I’ve been stockpiling those. If you have any suggestions for upcoming blog topics you’d like to read, let me know.
He even autographed my copy with a poison pen!
You may recall that it was Cain who first put our mutual publisher, Booktrope, onto my radar. He was also kind enough to devote an entire blog to reviewing my book, which you should read now if you’ve not done so yet. So now I’m giving his book a post to itself here. This is what’s known in the industry as squid pro quo, which has done wonders for SPECTRE & HYDRA. We’re not in competition with each other! You can buy both our books!
First of off, this is a thick honkin’ book. If you have scrawny T-Rex arms like me, you may want to get the eBook edition so you don’t strain yourself. The traditional version, however, does give you a great return on your investment in reconstituted trees. It’s got a nice heft to it, suitable for bludgeoning. I’m all about re-purposing. One of these pages features a map like all self-respecting fantasy novels, which is just further proof that The Dolorous Adventure Of Brother Banenose is too irreverent for its own good.
While it may be a lengthy tale (about twice the size as mine, not War & Peace long), it’s thankfully not a stodgy one. The characters feel like relatable contemporary people regardless of whether they’re people. Unlike other fantasy books, it doesn’t seem overly formal, solemn, or archaic. It’s still a quasi-medieval world with a few anachronistic elements, but you don’t have to wade through stilted dialogue. Even the supporting characters have personality. There is some supernatural worldbuilding that I need to go over so the rest of my review doesn’t make me sound more like a crazy person than necessary.
So I need to explain a little bit about the book’s cosmology. Rialda the Crow Goddess laid three eggs in the cosmic Void containing Tiger Deities: Grannax the Sun God who created the World, Isel the Goddess of the Moon & Stars, & Ker Zet the Goddess of Evil. Grannax & Isel wed & breed Gods resembling various animal species. Ker Zet is driven mad that she didn’t get divine power to add anything new to the cosmos or a mate of her own, so she rapes Grannax to breed Demons ala Lilith. (Trigger warning for the book starting off with some rapine, but it’s not graphically depicted.) War breaks out between the Gods & Demons, frequently spilling into the mortal world partitioned from both their realms. The warring sides imbue mortals called Blesseds with benefactor-specific Divine Gifts & matching brands to fight for them. Then there’s Demi-Gods known as the Ascended that are a step between. There is a detailed Appendix in the back explaining the Pantheons. If you’re the sort of reader that skips Appendices, take comfort knowing the the main text does a sufficient job describing the handful of Gods & Demons relevant to the first installment.
Aside from Divine Gifts, mortals of the six races (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Ogres, & Halflings) can acquire a wider array of superpowers through sorcery. Each mage’s magical energy source is a unique Avatar that’s a cross between a Daemon & a Patronus. The Spellweaver minority have active Avatars from birth. Some beings wield magic without being a Blessed, some Blesseds can’t do magic, & some Blessed have magic plus their Divine Gift. (Did I explain all that correctly, Cain?) Whew! Thus endeth the infodump.
The main co-heroine of War Witch: Rise is Ramora. The PTSD of having of her family & village destroyed by the army of a Demon-empowered Blessed causes her to become mute & forget her own name. She is adopted by Ramor the War Wolf God, who makes her one of his Blessed with the Divine Gift of battle precognition. She has access to other magic abilities via her rabbit Avatar. (See, the previous two paragraphs your eyes glazed over at were useful after all!) That’s her on the cover, although the book describes her armor as scarlet. Ramora returns to the mortal realm on an epic mission of vengeance against the Dark Blessed that ruined her childhood. Unluckily for her, he’s already racked up plenty of experience killing sixty-eight of her fellow Blessed. Acclimating back to life among mortals also proves challenging for her.
The other co-heroine is Chara, a farm girl who Ramora rescues that swiftly becomes the Gabrielle to Ramora’s Xena. She also serves as the closest thing to an audience surrogate & a loquacious one at that. Angst over societal expectations & her place in the world plague her, though she hones a keen strategic mind as the story progresses. Chara gives an impassioned monologue on the virtue of face stabbing & is a staunch proponent for the invention of bacon-flavored wine. Suffice it to say, she won me over.
Much of the text is devoted to character building, so we get to Ramora & Chara bond during their vengeance quest betwixt melees. In the final section, they join up with the Blessed equivalent of The Avengers featuring members of all six races with an array of Divine Gifts to take the fight to the Dark Blessed. This is where the awesome happens. The finale boasts one of the best extended battle sequences I’ve read in a long time. Cain expertly juggles multiple characters in separate locales with distinct action beats. He even throws in a flying castle! As great as the seige is, it’s even better that takes the time to show the survivors coping with the aftermath.
One of the subplots evokes A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a meta-critique on character shipping. A mysterious Ascended named Rakiss rewrites the auras of Chara & Esteban the Werejaguar from another dimension to make them fall in love. It remains unclear why he’s allowed to do so with impunity. I wanted to be invested in this relationship except both Chara & Esteban were brainwashed into it for reasons yet to be fully revealed. Rakiss is a skeevy matchmaker.
Although it’s the first of a trilogy, Rise still concludes on a satisfying note. Of course there’s plenty of loose ends about foreboding destiny that I’m eager to see come to fruition, that will have to wait for future installments. Hopefully they’ll include the rest of the Appendix’s Deities that didn’t put in appearances, some Demon Seed that aren’t obligatorily evil, & the triumphant return of Lucy, Chara’s hometown girlfriend who gets unceremoniously left in the lurch. Cain says he’s been working on War Witch for years, so we’ll hopefully be getting the sequels relatively soon unless he pulls a George R. R. Martin. The War Witch Saga is off to a solid start. Now Cain just needs to rework the next two books to accommodate my demands!