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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Along The Razor's Edge by Rob J. Hayes (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Pre-order Along The Razor's Edge over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)
Read the prologue of Along The Razor's Edge over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Never Die
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of City Of Kings 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Where Loyalties Lie
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Fifth Empire Of Man
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Price Of Faith
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Catch A Sunrise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of It Takes A Thief To Start A Fire
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Mini Q&A with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic trilogy completion interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Best Laid Plans Series Interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's SPFBO Aftermath Q&A with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Post COK interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Never Die Release Interview with Rob J. Hayes
Read A Game of ̶T̶h̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ Death by Rob J. Hayes (guest post)

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: No one escapes the Pit.

At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.

FORMAT/INFO: Along The Razor’s Edge is 380 pages long divided into thirty-eight numbered chapters and a prologue. The narration is in first person omniscient via Eskara Helsene solely. This book is the first book of The War Eternal trilogy.

March 30, 2019 will mark the US and UK e-book publication of Along The Razor’s Edge and will be self-published by the author. Cover art is by Felix Ortiz & design is provided by Shawn King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: At this point, I’m glad to say that I’m a through and through Rob J. Hayes fan. I’ve read every book of his that’s been released and a few that haven’t (so far). Rob’s books have all of the things that I look out for in fantasy:

- Terrific characterization
- Epic plots
- Thrilling magic systems & world-building

So far he’s written stories in three different worlds, not counting the SF-thriller Drones he released nearly two years ago. With this book, we are introduced to a fourth new, different world and set of characters.

Along The Razor’s Edge is a provocative story that focuses on Eskara Helsene, a child sourceror within the Terran army who fought in the greatest war known to mankind. The war between the Orran empire and the Terrelan empire ended with the death of the Orran line and Eskara along with her best friend Josef Yenhelm was sent to a subterranean prison known as the Pit.

As the story starts, we are treated to life in the Pit and Eskara telling us about how she and  Josef  came to be in the Pit. We start from her childhood and find out how she came to be selected and how she first Josef. The author really gives us an in-depth look in to Eska and all that she holds dear. This is the first time that the author has used a first person perspective in the fantasy genre.

The majority of ATRE takes place in a subterranean hell hole wherein prisoners are abused physically and psychologically. Eskara and Josef are considered special prisoners as they are the last of the Orran Sourcerers and the Terrelans have grand plans for them. But for those plans to fruition, both Josef and Eskara have to be broken every which way. The main gist of the book’s plot is a about a jail break and it unfolds with all the thrills that one comes to expect from such plots. Eska and Josef have to find the strength within themselves and also find others who are crazy enough to believe them and bust out of the one place that’s virtually unescapable.

Eskara as a main narrator is an absolute asshole of a character and brings to mind some spectacular ones such as Prince Jorg (Mark Lawrence) and Nyx (Kameron Hurley). She’s acerbic, vindictive and fatal to her enemies. To her friends, she’s loyal, protective and a person who will never back down from a fight. We get a strong sense of both sides within the story. She is a fascinating character that only plays out to extremes and from a psychological point of view, she’s very, very unique. What the author really explores is the concept of child soldiers or child sourcerers (if you will). These children with talents have been taken and indoctrinated and it’s very evident with the way Eska thinks and behaves.

The whole story has a structure that’s very similar to the Name Of The Wind in the sense that we have Kvothe narrating his past and similarly here we have Eskara narrating her past life as she contemplates the bleak life situation in the Pit. The way the story unfolds, we know somewhat of the future as Eska herself tell us but the journey is important too as we don’t really know how it all will happen.

How it all unfolds is wherein Rob J. Hayes really shows his special factor. As always with all of his titles, the characters are what this book so thrilling. Beginning with Eska but then we are introduced to several others: Josef, Tamura, Hardt, Isen, Prig and more. All of them are well-rounded and we are given clues by future Eska about their roles and destinies. This was really fun to read as we are given snippets about people and situations and then the fun is to see when they actually happen. This was an interesting tactic utilized by the author and I would like to see how the others find it to be.

Overall this book has a solid pace and that will have you rooted as you try to find out what happens next. The book’s main timeline is set in the present and the flashbacks as well as future snippets are well mixed in with the present timeline.

The world isn’t really explored much as the entire takes place in a subterranean setting. We get some clues about the general going on above the ground and those are pretty fantastic. I believe the author will explore more of the world (Ovaeris) in the coming sequels. There’s also a lot of non-humanoid races that get mentioned within this opening volume and I hope we get to know more of them. Lastly there’s the magic system which the author has very nicely explained over here and this magic system is purely based on ingestion of crystals. Rob lays out the specifics within the story and I thought there was a cool twist too.

The only negative for me about the story is Eska’s character, as she’s very abrasive and more than a bit unlikeable. For those who aren’t really into unlikeable characters, this book can be a struggle. I had my issues with Eska but I've to grant it to the author for making her a complete character. Who while being unlikeable is still so solidly written that you can't help but be completely engrossed by her sheer will to do whatever's necessary. This definitely helped me for my overall enjoyment. Plus the world building and magic system are distinct enough to help overcome any other perceivable deficiencies.

CONCLUSION: Along The Razor’s Edge is an exciting start to a new trilogy by one of my favourite writers. It has action mixed in with distinct characters who will make it hard for you to ignore them. Along The Razor’s Edge is a story as intriguing as they come and proves to be just as sharply distinct as any well honed razor would be.



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