Jeff Salyard's Veil of the Deserters was published by Night Shade Books in 2014.
Information about Jeff Salyards:
Jeff Salyards grew up in a small town north of Chicago. While it wasn't Mayberry, it was quiet and sleepy, so he got started early imagining his way into other worlds that were loud, chaotic, and full of irrepressible characters. While he ultimately moved away, he never lost his fascination for the fantastic. Though his tastes have grown a bit darker and more mature over the years.
Jeff lives near Chicago with his wife and three daughters. By day, he is a book editor for the American Bar Association; by night, he will continue to crank out novels as long as there are readers willing to read them.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Veil of the Deserters:
History, Family and Memory... these are the seeds of destruction.
Bloodsounder's Arc continues as Captain Braylar Killcoin and his retinue continue to sow chaos amongst the political elite of Alespell. Braylar is still poisoned by the memories of those slain by his unholy flail Bloodsounder, and attempts to counter this sickness have proven ineffectual.
The Syldoonian Emperor Cynead has solidified his power base in unprecedented ways, and demands loyalty from all operatives. Braylar and company are recalled to the capital to swear fealty. Braylar must decide if he can trust his sister, Soffjian, with the secret that is killing him. She has powerful memory magics that might be able to save him from Bloodsounder's effects, but she has political allegiances that are not his own. Arki and others in the company try to get Soffjian and Braylar to trust one another, but politics in the capital prove to be far more complicated and dangerous than even Killcoin could predict.
Deposed emperor Thumarr plots to remove the repressive Cynead, and Braylar and his sister Soffjian lie at the heart of his plans. The distance between “favored shadow agent of the emperor” and “exiled traitor” is an unsurprisingly short road. But it is a road filled with blind twists and unexpected turns. Before the journey is over, Arki will chronicle the true intentions of Emperor Cynead and Soffjian. And old enemies in Alespell may prove to be surprising allies in a conflict no one could have foreseen.
A REVIEW OF JEFF SALYARDS' VEIL OF THE DESERTERS
Jeff Salyards' Veil of the Deserters continues the dark and bloody story that began in Scourge of the Betrayer. It's an unputdownable novel filled with brutal happenings, dark magic and excellent characterisation. It's an entertaining and intriguing novel that hooks you from the start and doesn't let go until you've reached the end - and what's best, it leaves you wanting more.
Veil of the Deserters is a remarkably good sequel to Scourge of the Betrayer, because the author concentrates on deepening the characters and writes more about the world. Although I enjoyed reading Scourge of the Betrayer, it felt a bit unfinished and lacked depth. It was a good novel, but on the whole Veil of the Deserters is a much better and more complex novel, because the author expands the story and brings new depth to many things, including the Syldoon, the Deserters and the Memoridons.
I have to mention that Bloodsounder's Arc is building up to be one of my all time favourite fantasy series, because it's a fascinatingly dark and complex series with an interesting protagonist that continues to develop and grow as a person. It's great that the author has spent time on polishing the story and has made it as good as possible.
I think it's good to mention that this series has been aimed at readers who enjoy reading Joe Abercrombie, Brian Ruckley, Mark Lawrence, Glen Cook and George R.R. Martin. If you've read any of these authors, you'll know what to expect from this series.
In the previous novel, a young and innocent scribe called Arki (Arkamondos) joined Captain Braylar Killcoin and his companions. He didn't know much about them and had to do his best to survive. He found out that he's traveling with a group of warriors who are quite different from normal people, but are loyal to each other. In this novel, things are a bit different, because a lot has happened since the beginning and Braylar and his men have suffered losses, and Arki is not as sensitive as he used to be.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- The story is told from the point of view of Arki, the young scribe, who joined Captain Braylar Killcoin and his group of warriors.
- At the beginning of the story, Arki wonders if he should tell Braylar what he saw or not, because he is partly responsible for the event. What he saw could cause serious problems for Braylar and his companions in the long run.
- Braylar is being poisoned by the memories of the people he has killed with the Bloodsounder. Because he has lost the only person who was able to help him, things look dire for him. If he can't find a new person to help him, he may be permanently poisoned by the memories.
- Braylar finds out that his sister, Soffjian, is in Alespell. She informs him and his warriors that they have been recalled. Soffjian has been commanded to escort them back to the capital of the Syldoon Empire to swear fealty...
This is the beginning of an entertaining and harsh story filled with intriguing happenings, schemes, politics, twists and turns.
The characterisation is excellent. The author has created realistic characters that have pasts of their own that haunt them (past events have shaped them to be the persons that they are now). Their pasts are not pretty, because many of them have either lost something or been exposed to brutalities that have changed their lives and views of the world. Each of them have their own personalities and traits that make them unique individuals.
Here's information about some of the characters:
Arki is an interesting character who was raised by his mother, but never really knew real family life. His unknown father sent him to university and he never met her mother afterwards. Arki has been chosen to be the scribe to Captain Braylar Killcoin and his companions.
Captain Braylar Killcoin is a conflicted man who suffers from being poisoned by the memories of those he has slain with his unholy flail, Bloodsounder. He is a brutal and strong man, but he is also faithful and just in his own way.
Braylar's sister Soffjian is an intriguing addition to the cast of characters. She's a Memoridon who has powerful magic that might help Braylar, but her political allegiances are questionable. She offers good counterbalance to Braylar by being a tough and determined woman.
One of the best things about this novel is the continuing relationship between Arki and Braylar. They have an interesting and complicated relationship, because Braylar doesn't reveal everything to Arki and keeps secrets from him. The author writes well about what goes on between them and how they interact with each other, because Braylar expects Arki to write about his deeds. I also want to mention that it was interesting to read about Braylar and Soffjian, because the author wrote about what happened to them when they were young and what kind of choices they made.
The author's decision to tell the story from Arki's point of view is an excellent decision, because Arki has a distinct voice of his own. He's a young man who has not seen much of the world and is not familiar with weapons. Arki's innocence makes the story work well, because he is not a warrior and has to witness what Braylar and his men do to others.
Arki has come a long way since the beginning of the series, because - in his own way - he contributes to the actions of the Syldoon warriors. He has realised that life is not as simple as he thought it would be and certain decisions may have dire consequences. However, he still has a lot to learn and he has to adapt to living with the Syldoon and seeing violence around him.
There's a satisfyingly dark and gritty atmosphere in this novel, because it features brutal and harsh happenings. The author deepens the atmosphere by writing about what the warriors have experienced. As they share their experiences and memories about past events, readers learn new things about them and the world.
The worldbuilding works perfectly in this novel, because it's fully convincing and realistic. It's nice that the author gradually deepens the world by writing about its history, conflicts, plagues and wars that have shaped it and affected its inhabitants, because it makes the story feel bigger.
The world of Bloodsounder's Arc is fascinatingly brutal and gritty. In this fantasy world, gritty realism blends irresistibly with brutal events that surprise and thrill the readers. Anything can - and will - happen to the characters, because the author has the ability to surprise his readers with unexpected happenings.
It was interesting to read about the rippers, because they're dangerous beasts on the Green Sea. They're massive birds that have no wings. Instead of wings they have thin feathered limbs that end in talons. Their heads are almost as large as horses' heads and they have huge beaks. They can easily kill people and rip them to shreds.
Because I'm a big fan of the darker side of fantasy, I enjoyed reading about the dark and twisted magic. There's a distinct feel of dark fantasy and sword and sorcery to this novel that I found addictive and compelling (this is mostly due to the fact that the author's approach to magic and magical happenings feels spellbindingly dark).
Reading about what the Bloodsounder does to Braylar is intriguing, because Jeff Salyards pays attention to writing about how much harm and pain the weapon afflicts to Braylar. Braylar is slowly being poisoned by the memories of the people he has slain with the flail and he can do nothing about it. The memories keep on endlessly tormenting him, because he knows what the people have done and what has happened to them. (There was something about the flail and its connection to Braylar that slightly reminded me of Glen Cook's The Swordbearer.)
It's great that Jeff Salyards explores the connection between Braylar and the Bloodsounder and reveals how Braylar found it. This adds quite a lot of depth to the storyline and explains a few things that I wondered about when I read the first novel.
I enjoyed reading about what the Deserted Gods had done, because they had erected the Godveil. The Deserter Gods used to have names and worshipers, but they escaped from the people and erected the Veil to cover their escape. Everybody who goes near the Veil feels its irresistible pull. People who go near it will feel a subtle but powerful urge to approach it and if they go too near it, it will destroy their minds and kill them.
I also enjoyed reading about the Memoridons and their powers, because the author revealed more information about them. The Memoridons are interesting persons, because they have magic that allows them to affect memories. They're believed to be dangerous, because they're used to gather intelligence, interrogate and even assassinate. They can create and plant false memories. Just like the Syldoonian soldiers, the Memoridons are controlled by the Tower Commanders, but they have their own agenda.
In this novel, the author writes well about the Syldoon and their lives. He reveals that there's much more to them than merely being brutal and strong warriors. Reading about the Syldoon and their empire was rewarding and interesting for me, because I wanted to find out more about them.
The well-crafted fight scenes are realistic and approriately bloody and violent, but the author never goes overboard with the gore elements. In this series, it matters a lot what kind of armour and weapons you have and how you use them, because tiny mistakes can be fatal. It's great that Braylar and his companions are not invincible, because it adds realism to the story (although they're strong, they can be injured and killed).
Action in the fight scenes is fast and furious without being annoying or boring. Jeff Salyards avoided prolonging these scenes and let them develop and end in a natural way at their own pace. This felt fresh and enjoyable, because these scenes didn't restrain the story from going forward.
It's nice that political machinations are handled fluently. I was positively surprised by the author's way of writing about them, because they felt genuinely captivating. I won't go into details about them in order to avoid writing spoilers, but I'm sure that everybody will enjoy reading about them.
One might not expect to find humour in this kind of novels, but this novel has a few darkly humorous moments that emphasise - and also lighten - the overall atmosphere. It's great that certain comments made by the characters are stingingly sharp and witty, because they spice up the story in a good way.
Jeff Salyards has done his best to write a story that continues to grow deeper and richer as it unfolds. He has paid a lot of attention to the characters and writes fluently and grittily about them and their deeds. In this novel, he puts the story arc into a much larger context and leads his readers into a fully realised and complex fantasy world that will be quite difficult to forget once you've visited it.
I sincerely hope that as many readers as possible will read Jeff Salyards' novels, because they deserve to be read. He delivers a memorable and surprising story arc that grows deeper and richer as things begin to unfold. I consider him to be every bit as good an author as Joe Abercrombie, Brian Ruckley and Mark Lawrence, because he writes excellent fantasy for adults. If you enjoy reading grimdark stories, but are new to Jeff Salyards, I urge you to take a look at his novels, because you'll like them.
Veil of the Deserters is an impressive and complex fantasy novel to readers who are looking for something dark, mesmerising and addictive to read. Readers will find a lot to enjoy in this novel, because the story is spiced with magic, political machinations and memorable characters. When you reach the end, you'll be desperately wanting to read the sequel, Chains of the Heretic, to find out what happens next.
Highly recommended to fans of grimdark, dark fantasy and sword and sorcery novels!