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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE (Amazon US) and HERE (Amazon UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

OFFICIAL BLURB: The Heresy Within is the first book in the debut trilogy, The Ties that Bind by Rob J. Hayes. Thanquil Darkheart is an Arbiter of the Inquisition, a witch hunter tasked with hunting down and purging heretics. Thanquil Darkheart is also something else, expendable. When the God-Emperor of Sarth tells Thanquil there is a traitor operating among the highest echelon of the Inquisition he knows he has no choice but to sail to the city of Chade and follow the Emperor's single lead.

The Black Thorn is a murderer, a thug, a thief and worse but he's best known for the killing of six Arbiters. These days he travels with a crew of six of the most dangerous sell-swords in the wilds. After a job well done they find themselves on the run from the law once again but the boss has good news; a new job, the biggest any of them have ever pulled. First, however, they need to evade capture long enough to secure travel to the free city of Chade.

Jezzet Vel'urn is a Blademaster; a swords-woman of prodigious skill but she knows that for a woman like her in the wilds there are two ways out of most situations; fight or screw. Truth is, all too often for Jezzet’s likes, it comes down to a combination of the two. Jezzet is chased half-way across the wilds by a vengeful warlord until she makes it to the free city of Chade. Instead of sanctuary, however, all she finds are guards waiting to turn her over for some quick gold.

FORMAT/INFO: The Heresy Within is divided into four sections with sixty POV chapters. The narration is in third person via Thanquil Darkheart, Jezzet Vel’urn and Betrim Thorn aka The Black Thorn. This is the first book of the Ties That Bind trilogy.

April 14, 2013 marks the US e-book publication of The Heresy Within and was self-published by the author. Cover illustration is provided by Sigbjorn Pedersen.

CLASSIFICATION: The Heresy Within is a dark fantasy debut with terrific characterization and a twisted plotline that is very reminiscent of the works by Joe Abercrombie, David Dalglish and Scott Lynch.

ANALYSIS: This is another indie debut that came out of nowhere and was brought to my attention thanks to Amazon’s fabulous algorithm for suggesting titles. I had no clue about this book but the blurb that suggested a dark story and the excerpt that I read had me ordering the book as soon as I finished it. The book safe to say was far from a disappointment.

The story begins with Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart who is a member of the Inquisition that seeks to root out demons and those who practice the dark arts in the lands in and around the holy city of Sarth. They are an organization who based on the teachings of Volmar, have dedicated their lives trying to burn heretics and forever stamp out the dark arts. Such dedication has given them the street title of “witch hunters” and it’s one that is actively discouraged as well. Thanquil is however not a typical one and is just returning from a distant mission before he gets shanghaied into an even more dangerous one. 

Jezzet Vel’urn is a blademaster, she’s also a person who thinks more of day-to-day survival than anything else. Her troubles stem from a past friendship gone sour and before long she has to decide whether she will “fight or fuck her way” out of the shit headed her way. Lastly there’s Betrim the Black Thorn, mercenary, rogue and all round deadly murderer. His name echoes throughout the wilds as a name to be feared. Having lost a few digits on his hands and feet have made the Black Thorn extremely cautious in trusting folk even those among his crew but come long he will have to decide whether he wants to remembered as just a vile mercenary or something more.

That’s the basic gist of all the POV characters however there are more and all of them crazier and scarier than these POV ones. If I had to pinpoint the one single strength of this book, I would say it’s the characterization. Very few authors manage to write such terrific characters in their debut, only a few such as Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Anthony Ryan come to mind but now I believe we have another addition to this list. Rob J. Hayes who writes about lowlifes and scum but writes with such wonderful application that these very characters seem fascinating gems and before long have you hooked onto their antics. This is the best part of the story, kind of reminiscent of Blake Crouch and J. A. Konrath’s serial killer thrillers wherein they explored the darker side of human depravity and power. 

Similarly the author herein focuses on people who frankly would be villains in most books however gives them three dimensional personas for the readers to enjoy reading about. Betrim, Thanquil and Jezzet are the main characters and they shine brightly through their chapters but it's also the side character cast such as Henry, Bones, Swift, etc that make the story so much more intriguing. The POV characters Thanquil, Jezzet and Betrim are all psychologically broken people however the way they cope with their problems is fascinating to read. Plus amid all the savagery, their semi-honorable actions seem even brighter as compared to the muck around them. Sure enough some of them are still scum, act crazy, commit violence in a wild manner upon each other and normal folk, however many of them become so interesting that the readers will be forced to turn the pages to get to know them better as well as their sides of the story. This was what I loved so much about this debut, the terrific characterization, the unpredictable plot-line with all the action and bleakness.

There are plot twists galore as the story hardly moves in the direction that the readers would expect and in the end the author makes sure that the rules of the world are obeyed in the sense that no character is truly safe. There are quite a few deaths and so I would recommend that readers not read the blurb of the next books to not spoil their reads. The ending is very Abercrombie-like wherein situations are resolved but the characters are put through a psychological and physical grinder of sorts. All in all this is a kind of debut that you definitely don’t want to miss because as soon as you finish this book, you’ll want to start the next one and the one after that. The great news is that all three of them are released and therefore ready to be devoured.

Now moving onto the parts of the book that seem to be a bit deficient, namely the worldbuilding front. Sure enough there is enough history and geography provided to make it seem three dimensional but because the story focuses so much on characters and action, some readers who might want to know more of the surrounding world might not be satisfied. This book is without a map and so for cartophiles it’s a bit of a negative. Lastly those who don’t like dark fantasy or grey characters please, please avoid this book at all costs as you definitely will not be able to stomach it for all its brutality, gore and graphic nature. There's also quite a few situations and characters that come on to the main stage without any explanation and so I hope their status and back-stories will be explained in the succeeding volumes.

CONCLUSION: Who is Rob J. Hayes, I don’t know entirely but I’m willing to bet that before the year ends, many readers will have heard his name and also become fans of his. The Heresy Within is an Indie debut and like last year’s Blood Song is a absolute gem. If you like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or David Dalglish, make sure this is your next book. If you want a dark journey filled with action, betrayals and truly magnificent bastards of characters then The Heresy Within is the book that you should seek. DO NOT MISS IT!


Colt4u said...

Sounds very interesting, but only available as kindle format. So I will have to wait till the epub version to see if it is that good.

Rhian said...

Available to download free 26 & 27 May 2013 in celebration of Rob J. Hayes' 30th birthday. Kindle/Kindle app.

Anonymous said...

Free to download on 16th and 27th May (author's birthday)

Anonymous said...

Just finished this book after days of constant reading, I just couldn't put it down. Brilliant read if you appreciate the genre. I'm off to buy the second book and make space in my calendar so I can greedily tuck into it uninterrupted for the next few days! I hope to see a lot more of Hayes in the future.


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