David Dalglish’s beautiful, grandiose and expansive The Bladed Faith begins at the roots of a rebellion.
Cyrus Lythan, heir to Thanet’s throne, witnessed his parents’ capture and execution when their small island nation was invaded by the Everlorn Empire. Having been held as a political prisoner ever since, Cyrus was helpless as the empire worked to eradicate his kingdom’s culture and religion. But during a skirmish with Thanet resistance fighters, Cyrus is rescued by Thorda Ahlai, a wealthy aristocrat bent on overthrowing the empire. With his two highly trained daughters and vast wealth, Thorda seeks to avenge his homeland’s destruction. Cyrus is all too happy to join the effort, but the price of reclaiming the country may be steeper than he realized. Cyrus will need to become something new: a folk hero and vigilante who exacts bloody revenge from the shadows. Will his and Thorda’s need for vengeance cost them their souls?
It’s a tale as old as time: Country is overthrown by authoritarians; heir forms resistance band to win back the country; revolution ensues. Of course, it’s never quite that easy in practice, and Dalglish grounds The Bladed Faith in reality as he charts his hero’s rocky path forward. It is extremely hard to run a rebellion. It’s also extremely hard to change one’s body and mind so completely as to become someone else, so Cyrus’ training lasts a lot more than one page. There are plenty of bumps in the road to liberation. Things go wrong for our heroes, and The Bladed Faith is all the more interesting because of it.
The world around Cyrus and Thorda is vivid in every way, and the opening sequence depicting the fall of Thanet is particularly breathtaking. The nation’s two guardian spirits, who take physical form as a massive golden lion and a woman with shimmering wings, are cut down by goliath super soldiers from Everlorn. It’s sad, brutal and beautiful. But Dalglish takes equal care with smaller details, too, like Cyrus’ running route as he trains or the details on a character’s ax. At every turn, The Bladed Faith feels fully formed, without a single description haphazardly thrown in. Dalglish has an uncanny ability to predict his readers’ thoughts; more than once I found a character explaining answers to my own internal questions in real time.
Yes, rebellion against an evil empire is a familiar plot in fantasy. But this is a rebellion with soul, and one that promises to reach even greater heights as the series continues. Given Dalglish’s track record, don’t be surprised if he somehow manages to top the triumphant standard he sets with The Bladed Faith.