Christopher Husberg's Duskfall was published by Titan Books in June 2016.
Information about Christopher Husberg:
Christopher Husberg was born in Alaska and studied at Brigham Young University, where he went on to teach creative writing. His short story collection Look Me in the Stars received an honourable mention in the 2013 Utah Original Writing Competition. He lives with his wife in Lehi, Utah.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Duskfall:
Stuck with arrows and close to death, a man is pulled from the icy waters of the Gulf of Nahl. As he is nursed back to health by a local fisherman, two things become very clear: he has no idea who he is, and he can kill a man with terrifying ease.
The fisherman is a tiellan, a race which has long been oppressed and grown wary of humans. His daughter, Winter, is a seemingly quiet young woman, but behind her placid mask she has her demons. She is addicted to frostfire - a substance that both threatens to destroy her and simultaneously gives her phenomenal power.
A young priestess, Cinzia, hears the troubling news of an uprising in her native city of Navone. Absconding from the cloistered life that she has kept for the last seven years, she knows she must make the long journey home. The flames of rebellion threatening her church and all that she believes in are bad enough, but far worse is the knowledge that the heretic who sparked the fire is her own sister.
These three characters may have set out on different paths, but fate will bring them together on one thrilling and perilous adventure.
A REVIEW OF CHRISTOPHER HUSBERG'S DUSKFALL
Let me start this review by saying that every once in a while, if you're lucky, you have an opportunity to read something as entertaining and fascinating as Christopher Husberg's debut fantasy novel Duskfall. Considering the great amount of debut fantasy novels published each year, it's wonderful to find novels like this one that are truly worth reading and recommending.
I'm delighted to say that Duskfall exceeded all of my expectations. It's a stunningly good achievement in epic and addictive storytelling. It's one of the best debut fantasy novels of the year and should not be missed by readers who are interested in complex and entertaining stories.
Duskfall is the first novel in The Chaos Queen Quintet. It is exactly what many debut novels aspire to be, but seldom are, because it is an addictive, compelling, dark and well-created novel. It has all the elements that one could ever hope to find in an entertaining and fast-paced fantasy novel and then some. The gradually unfolding story is filled with such a strong sense of mystery that it enthralls readers from the very first page and keeps them turning pages.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
A tiellan man called Bahc rescues a man pierced by arrows from a frozen sea. Soon Bahc witnesses something strange that he hasn't seen since his daughter, Winter, was born. He takes care of Knot and takes him to his hometown, Pranna... Winter marries Knot, but their wedding ceremony is interrupted by men who seem to know her husband. The intruders cause havoc and kill her father. Knot kills all of the intruders and soon afterwards flees from Pranna so that Winter and the other tiellans will be safe. Winter decides to find her husband, because there's nothing in Pranna for her. She is accompanied by Lian who loves her... Cinzia, a Cantic priestess, has come back home to find out what is happening there, because she has heard rumours of heresy. She meets her sister, Jane, who tells her blasphemous and shocking things about a heretical rebellion...
The gradually unfolding story is an intriguing combination of familiar fantasy tropes and originality. I was positively surprised by how easily the author used familiar elements to his advantage and delivered a story that felt simultaneously charmingly familiar and captivatingly fresh.
One of the strengths of this novel is good and nuanced characterisation. The author focuses on writing about three main characters - Knot, Winter and Cinzia - and follows their individual journeys and reveals bits and pieces about them as the story unfolds. He brings them to life by writing vividly about their lives, feelings, fears and hopes.
Knot suffers from amnesia. He's a man who doesn't know who he is or where he comes from. His memories of his past life are incomprehensible, because they're filled with violence and faces that mean nothing to him. He is a strong man and can easily kill others (what frightens him is that he enjoys what he feels when he kills his men).
Winter is a young tiellan woman. She is Bahc the fisherman's daughter. She has always felt that part of her is missing and hasn't felt at home where she grew up. Her life changes when she leaves her hometown and finds out that she has latent psimantic talents that can be used by help of an addiction-inducing drug called faltira (frostfire).
Cinzia is a Cantic priestess. She is devoted to her faith and finds herself in a tight spot when she finds out that members of her own family are part of a heretical movement that aims to cleanse the religion. She doesn't want to believe what she is hearing when her own sister tells her that she has been chosen by the Goddess Canta to lead the rebellion.
Astrid is an especially interesting character, because she's a vampire. She looks like a young girl, but is much older than she appears to be. She has quite a formidable attitude. Her conversations with Knot are intriguingly humorous and sarcastic.
Worldbuilding is satisfyingly complex and detailed in this novel. The author has created a rich fantasy world that has its own mythical past, lore, religion, races, conflicts and customs. It's a world that has seen its share of changes and misery over the years.
It was fascinating that the author wrote about such complicated themes and issues as addiction, corruption, rape, gender politics and racial oppression, because many authors tend to avoid writing about them. These themes and issues added gritty realism to the story.
Christopher Husberg has created an intriguing magic system. Reading about psimancy and people's ability to control objects and delve into the minds of others was interesting. The use of faltira to make psimantic abilities manifest themselves in certain persons intrigued me, because it could cause fatal addiction (faltira can be extremely dangerous if used in a wrong day, because it can kill its user). The author's magic system reminded me slightly of the magic systems created by Brandon Sanderson and Blake Charlton.
In my opinion, the author writes extremely well about Winter and how she craves for faltira. There's a frighteningly realistic edge to Winter's use of faltira, because she experiences feelings of euphoria when she takes faltira and notices that it changes her perception of things for a while. Faltira gives her great powers, but she can only uses her powers under the influence of faltira.
Christopher Husberg explores faith and religion in an excellent way. In this novel, Cinzia has to face difficult issues, because she witnesses things that make her to question her faith. The author writes well about how the leaders of the Cantic religion feel about heresy and how they resort to using violence to control it.
It was interesting for me to read about the tiellans, because they were different from humans. They're shorter than humans, their ears are slender and pointed, and they have larger eyes. They also rarely have hair on their bodies, except for the tops of their heads. The fear that tiellans have for humans is handled well, because humans have oppressed them and treated them badly. I found it intriguing that humans often called tiellans elves, which was considered rude and offensive.
What I like most about this novel is that Christopher Husberg takes his time to develop the characters and doesn't rush things too much by revealing all at once. The gradual revelations about the characters and their lives are enjoyable and keep up the sense of mystery. The gradually unfolding story was so full of details and imagination that I found myself wholly captivated by it.
I look forward to reading the next novel, Dark Immolation, which will be published in June 2017, because I want to find out how the story continues. It will be a difficult wait, because it's been a while since I've read this good a debut epic fantasy novel.
This novel reminded me a bit of Gail Z. Martin, Michael J. Sullivan, Courtney Schafer and Marc J. Turner. Just like these authors, Christopher Husberg has the ability to entertain his readers and move the story fluently forward.
Christopher Husberg's Duskfall is an entertaining and strong debut novel that beckons fans of epic fantasy to explore its fascinating world and realistic characters. I have a feeling that it will strongly appeal to everyone who loves well-told fantasy stories. It will please those who have read epic fantasy, dark fantasy and grimdark fantasy. If you're looking for a new epic fantasy novel to read, please consider reading Duskfall, because it's excellent entertainment.