- Title: Solace Lost
- Author: Michael Sliter
- Series: Pandemonium Rising, #1
- Genre: Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
- Publishing Date: March 22nd, 2018
- Publishing Co.: Dragyn Press
- Length: 555 pages
- Format: Paperback, Kindle Unlimited
- Acquired: Gifted print copy in exchange for a review
- Amazon Link: Solace Lost
During times of war, no one goes unscathed. By Ultner, even in times of peace, few can escape suffering. Ardia is on the brink of civil war, though most citizens are woefully unaware of this fact. Fenrir de Trenton, a disgraced guardsman-turned-ineffective-criminal, is accustomed to taking orders. So much so that, despite the danger, he finds himself neck-deep in the politicking of his current superiors as well as the rulers of the country. The fact that Fenrir’s father would rather see him dead doesn’t help matters. Emma Dram, a handmaiden of the great Lady Escamilla, hates Fenrir with a fiery passion and with good reason: he lopped off most of her hand. Nonetheless, she finds herself in close proximity to her former lover as she seeks to serve her lady liege in fomenting her own rebellion. Hafgan Iwan is a Wasmer, a race reviled by humans, who serves the same masters as Fenrir. His efforts to assimilate with human culture only earn him the derision of his own race, and he seeks to find belonging amidst the escalating conflict. Meanwhile, Merigold Hinter, a serving girl with an unusual power, lives a simple existence, hoping for love, adventure, and to see the world. Her life should be untouched by political maneuvering and war. However, her world becomes a crucible—how much can one woman bear before breaking? A story of love lost and family destroyed, of bigotry and belonging, of suffering and strength, and of religion and magic, SOLACE LOST grows from a character-driven tale to something grand in scale, perhaps even involving the gods, themselves.
First Chapter Challenge: 14 pages
Within these first few pages, it seems like the entire tone of the book has already been set. I have met Fenrir, an older, perhaps mercenary figure, going about his job as Enforcer for the House. Already, the book has set so much in motion, has set up so many avenues for conflict. There is the House, which seems akin to a medieval Mafia, we have Fenrir, who works for said House, but whom does so hesitantly, and then there is the kingdom of Ardia, which I assume does not really like the control the House has over its territory.
Already I am so ready to keep reading! In fact, as of reading this, I already read waaay past the first chapter because I just could not put the book down and stop to write this! I have a good feeling about this novel.
Final Judgment: 5 Stars out of 5
Trigger Warning: Contains explicit sexual and traumatic content, as well as coarse adult language and humor
This book was absolutely amazing. In fact, I’d rate it in my favorite top 10 of ALL TIME. That’s how good it is! We have the main characters Fenrir and Merigold, with main side characters Emma, Escamilla, and Hafgan. With the multiple POVs strewn throughout the book of main and secondary characters alike, the reader gets several different views of this magical world of Ardia, each with a unique perspective. All of the main characters come from extremely different circumstances, and yet all share a history of trauma and ostracism, further creating conflict and emotion throughout the story. In essence, the Little Duke is creating a war with his nobles, attempting to unite Ardia under one rule, and at the same time, The House and Recherche Oletta (perhaps the real powers in Ardia) wage a secret war, each attempting to undermine the power of the other. Our main characters are simply pawns in these two wars, trussed up and strung to move one war or the other on a whim of one of the 4 separate powers. That is, unless they decide to go against orders and take their lives into their own hands…
The amount of world-building is absolutely phenomenal. Not only has Michael Sliter created his own world of Ardia, complete with fully fleshed villages, towns, and major cities, but he has also created a plethora of different beings. Each region has their own customs, shown through their dialect, customs, religion, and clothing styles. There is even a different race, called the Wasmer, who live in the mountains and are larger and furrier than their human counterparts.
Yetra shall watch over all of those who live in Harmony, providing protection and guidance. Deontis. (pg 138)
ADDITIONALLY, the characters all have their own curses! Not simply the “Oh Gods!” curse that has become so common in epic fantasy nowadays, but crude curses referencing Ultner (a specific God in this world) and his nether region–as well as other blunt and coarse imagery–are used by the characters! I love it. It brings an authenticity to this world that is refreshing!
Fenrir had always followed the old adage “grudges are like whores; hold on too tightly and you’ll catch an elbow to the nose.” And, like whores, grudges were easier to forget when they were miles away. (pg 46)
AND not only all of this, but Sliter ALSO includes pieces of different languages! The Wasmer have their own language-with a few words shown to us throughout the book–and magic users also seem to have their own language, or at least their own words for magic-related language. It is absolutely amazing. Through the entire book, it felt as if I was actually there, in this medieval world, experiencing the dust, saddle-rash, and bumping into odd folk along with the characters. I became my own character in the world of Ardia.
“We are all born with the capacity for good and evil, Harmony and Pandemonium. However, the course of a person’s life is not set at birth. No one is born a rapist or a murderer. Or a saint, for that matter. The experiences in their lives…all feed either this internal Harmony or Pandemonium.” (pg 464)
The character development is also something worth mentioning. This book is built on multiple POVs, mostly from our main characters. With each POV, we are shown increasing depths into the other characters, as well as into the politics of the world itself. We get a bitter soldier’s view of the world with Fenrir, a traumatized and suspicious–yet determined–view with Merigold, a lowly-outsider-turned-noble-spy view from Emma, and of course the Wasmer view of the humans and their plights from Hafgan. Each time the POV changes, I discover new and exciting things in already established characters and learn more about this amazing world that I have come to call home for the hours that I spend reading the novel. And each character is highly dynamic. Just in this first book of the Pandemonium Rising series, each of the main characters has grown so much. They each have walked through Hell in order to make it to the end, and they have changed because of it. For better or worse, that is up to you to decide! (I already know what I think!)
Humans had this tendency to see anything different from themselves as uniform stereotypes with little variation. (pg 301)
One of the biggest things that I have fallen in love with, is that the heroes of this story are not what I would traditionally, archetypally, see as heroes in such a magical, medieval world. When I think of the protagonist, I immediately think of someone young, beautiful/handsome, perhaps with some minor faults, but overall good and practically perfect. I have seen this archetype in sooo many fantasy stories lately, that it has become natural to me. So natural, in fact, that I was caught extremely off-guard with the heroes in this story! The heroes in Solace Lost vary in age, some older (like Fenrir with his already graying hair and bad knee) and some younger, both in physical and mental age (Emma and Merigold). Fenrir and Emma both have physical issues, and would not be considered “beautiful” by traditional standards. Merigold’s beauty has been dampened by her story, and Hafgan is an outcast in both Wasmer and human society. They are portrayed as real people. They have human faults and blemishes, and I would not trade them for anything! It is so refreshing to have actual, faulty heroes for once in such a magical story, and this also lends authenticity to the novel. I know people in my real life who mirror some aspects of Fenrir and some of Merigold, a dash of Hafgan and a pinch of Emma. This human error, found in all of the characters, helps me to relate even more closely to the characters and dive more fully into the world of Ardia.
This was the body of a victim. And also…This was the body of a killer. (pg 269)
Overall, this book is a must-read, and I do not say that lightly. I can name only two other authors whom I would dedicate that “must-read’ to (Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, I will ALWAYS love you), and that Michael Sliter with this book made the cut is something profound. I KNOW that I will be picking up the next book the minute it comes out, and I beg all of you (as long as you are 18+!) to also try it out! I guarantee (fingers crossed) that you will not regret this journey!