Blog Archive

View My Stats
Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Instruments Of Control by Craig Schafer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Instruments Of Control HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released six novels in about fourteen months. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Livia Serafini must die.

To the Church she is a heretic, tried in absentia and sentenced to burn. To her brother Carlo, she stands as a threat to his corrupt rule and a symbol of resistance. To her new "allies" in the east, she is a pawn to be played and sacrificed as they see fit. They don't hear the whispers that follow her in the streets: whispers of hope, and the name of a long-dead saint.

When Livia rises up to fight, she will not rise alone.

Across the ocean, Felix struggles for control of his family's fate against the crime lord Basilio Grimaldi. Basilio is wealthy, ruthless, and the master of a hundred killers. All Felix has are his wits and his courage. It won't be enough. To break free, and to save the lives of everyone he loves, he'll have to face the darkness that followed him home from Winter's Reach.

And as the Owl's horrific vengeance unfolds, her coven teeters on the brink of civil war. All the dominoes are in place now, lined up from the frozen north to the swamps and ruins of a dead empire, and set to tumble at one man's command. When they do, a world will fall with them.

FORMAT/INFO: The Instruments Of Control is 315 pages long divided over fifty-six chapters. Narration is in the third-person, via Felix Rossini, Werner Holst, Lodovico Marchetti, Amadeo Lagorio, Simon Koertig, Livia Benignus, Basilio Grimaldi, Mari Renault, Hedy, Renata, Bear, Dante Uccello and a couple of other minor characters. This is the second volume of The Revanche Cycle.

April 19, 2015 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Instruments Of Control and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a vast character cast, and focusing on political, religious and magical intrigue. The Revanche Cycle is very reminiscent of the works of Jennifer Fallon, Tad Williams and Daniel Abraham.

ANALYSIS: The Instruments Of Control is the sequel to Winter's Reach and a cracking read in itself. We are back with all our POV characters who survived the last book. Livia has had to flee to a neighboring country which has its own designs about the seat of Papal power a la the France-Rome situation with multiple popes and Anti-popes. Felix is stuck with his bargain to save his family and now has to deal with Basilio Grimaldi and his Faustian pact. Faced with a marriage proposal, he can't avoid, he learns that all might not be lost as his Grimaldi bride-to-be; Aita has ambitions of her own.

There's also Mari and Werner who are now returning to Mari's land of birth in the search for a certain sect of Knights. What they don't know is the people hunting them are getting ever so close. Simon Koertig is still upset about his supposed failure and is incensed now that Lodovico has made Felix off limits to him. Simon being Simon will not let that be and endeavors to bring his morbid plans to fruition. Think of him as Coyote to Felix’s Roadrunner with the only difference being that this isn’t a cartoon. Lodovico's revenge is slowly becoming sharper in clarity and that doesn't bode well for the merchant lords of the city of Mirenze. Lodovico's plans are revealed and it all boils down to a Bruce Wayne concept but with a major Lex Luthor outlook.

Renata is the new POV character introduced in this sequel and she's on the run for her life. Forced to do so due to her closeness with Felix, she encounters a strange person on the road who might be her salvation but also doom her all the same. Amadeo Lagorio is forced to witness a schism in the church that he loves however he believes he's on the right side of things even though he doesn't quite agree with Livia's methods. Lastly there's Owl the witch who is hunting Mari & Werner for the death of her pupil and things slowly become a bit clearer on the magic that's secretly prevalent in the world.

Overall the second volume builds upon the tension strewn across the various threads and the readers get to see further twists and newer sides to all the characters, which we have seen so far. Once again the characterization is the story’s forte. From Simon, Livia, Mari, Werner, Dante, Felix and the rest, each and every POV character gets their chance to shine and shine they do. This volume is more about the personal hardships that individuals have to face & the bleak choices they have to make. There’s a horrible death in the book that the author doesn’t show but you can feel its effects immediately afterward and throughout the story. There are a couple of characters whose lives take a dark turn. One by choice and the other by someone’s manipulation, both paths are very sad to read but riveting nonetheless. Full marks to the author for writing about female characters in a way that doesn’t stick to tropes and even trying their hardest to go their own in a hard, patriarchal society.

Craig Schafer know how to pace his story and even with a big cast of characters as these, he still manages to keep the narrative ted down tightly. The pace never slackens and the reader will be consistently surprised with all the plot twists of this second volume. There are quite a few and none more than the shocker of a twist in the last third, which then continues on to a very shocking climax. I liked how the author inverts various tropes (about characters) and keeps the reader guessing about the track that will be taken by the POV characters. This book is truly dark because of all the brutality that is showcased within the story. Not all of it is physical, much of it is also psychological and the rest is just people making the best of bad decisions that they face.

As for drawbacks, I didn’t find any besides the lack of a map, which would certainly helped in understanding the story from a geopolitical standpoint. Sure some folks might find the darkness of the story a bit too much for their liking but it’s entirely subjective. There’ s also the increased focus on political machinations and slow increase of magical intrigue. Overall this is a nuanced story set in a dark, medieval world that is very reminiscent of our own. In this regard, it’s very similar to ASOIAF in its political situations and the influence of clergy/royalty in affecting the lives of commoners.

CONCLUSION:  The Instruments Of Control is a dark sequel that further lays bare the author’s intentions. The Revanche Cycle is a grand mix of human ambition, political ambition, greed and many more elements that are the basis of most famous historical sagas. Be sure to grab this series as it’s turning out to be something special. As for me, I can’t wait to get my hands on the 3rd volume Terms Of Surrender.



Click Here To Order “In The Shadow of Their Dying” by Anna Smith Spark & Michael R. FLetcher
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Miss  Percy's” by Quenby Olson!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “The Starless Crown” by James Rollins!!!
Order HERE