Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review - The Riven Wyrde Saga by Graham Austin-King

I love discovering new and exciting writing talent. It is one of the simplest pleasures I have in life as a reader and reviewer. That sweet moment when you realise you're reading something incredibly cool that shows no sign of relenting.

I got that feeling about halfway through the first book of The Riven Wyrde Saga. And from that moment on I never looked back.

The Riven Wyrde Saga tells a familiar story. Humanity has forgotten about the danger of the Fae over hundreds of generations, and their terrifying and evil nature has been diluted by stories and legends. But now, at the start of the saga, the wyrde that has kept the Fae in the outer dark has weakened. The Fae are returning, and humanity is not ready. 

Sounds cliched right? You're probably thinking that you've read that story before. And you would be right. An ancient evil that returns to plague humanity is a well used trope from the fantasy playbook. So why exactly should you read this saga? 

Well, you should read this saga because Austin-King does something amazing with it.

The Riven Wyrde Saga is epic in every sense of the world. Austin-King uses a well worn trope and launches it into the stratosphere, building a detailed world filled with fascinating detail and adventure. I adored pouring over all of the little tidbits that Austin-King wove into these books, from the little cultural details (Viking and Medieval influences) right through the the mythology and world of the fae. This is one of Austin-King's major strengths as a writer, and something I found utterly enthralling as I read through the books. From that original cliched trope Austin-King builds a richly layered world that is both unique and addictive to read. 

The characterisation throughout the series is also amazing. Austin-King is what I would call a descriptive writer, and his ability to create interesting characters with depth and layers was a joy to behold. I adored Kloss, Devin, Ylsriss, and the Fae! Fuck me the Fae... if you want to read a book that totally nails the original evil nature of the Fae then look no further. They are cold, alien, ruthless, and utterly terrifying throughout the series. Even when some of the Fae become less hostile towards humanity they are still totally alien and uncomfortable to be around. Austin-King shifts wonderfully from character to character, so you never truly get settled or bored with point of view. Every single one of them also has agency within the story, an important quality when writing an epic fantasy that stands out from the rest. I was riveted by the trials and tribulations that every character experienced, and the growth of the main protagonists was balanced brilliantly alongside the reveal of important story details as the series progressed. 

Another strength of this series was its action. For the most part it was choreographed wonderfully, and brimming with realism and bloody mayhem. Austin-King shocks at times, and his affection for horror and gore is often on full display throughout the books. There are also some truly awe-inspiring battles and killer magic for the reader to soak up, and the pace is relentless and uncompromising throughout those moments. I cannot think of any recent epic fantasy series, expect maybe Mitchell Hogan's Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, where the battles and magic were so vivid and cool. And the encounters with the Fae... damn. Just... damn. 

The story itself starts slow, and that is one of a couple of the small problems I had with the saga in its entirety. I understood what Austin-King was trying to do in the first half of The Wild Hunt, but it was hard going for there for awhile. It was pleasing to note that this issue of pacing never reared its head again as the books unfolded. The other small problem (and they are small problems, and didn't really detract from my overall enjoyment of the series) I had was the imbalance between male and female characters in the first book. Again, this issue was resolved as the series progressed, and I got to fall head over heels for awesomeness of Ylsriss and others as war and chaos unfolded. It was also great to observe just how much Austin-King improved from the first book to the last. His writing gets tighter, and his ability (already good in the first book) to weave together impressive world building and intricate characterisation becomes masterful. There is a real attention to detail in The Realm of Twilight and The Sins of the Wyrde, and it makes reading those books an absolute pleasure. 

All in all this saga was wonderful. Austin-King has done a stellar job in taking a well-used fantasy trope and recasting it in a powerful, terrifying and addictive way. The Riven Wyrde Saga is epic fantasy as it should be written, and I cannot recommended it enough for fans of the genre. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

You can pick up the entire Riven Wyrde Saga here for less than 8 dollars! An absolute bargain for three amazing books. You can also read them via Kindle Unlimited if you are a subscriber to that. 

How cool is that!? Keep an eye on Graham Austin-King... he is going places fast. 

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