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Into the Blight Paperback – 6 Oct. 2017
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We follow not just one quest but two, heading for the same objective for the complete opposite reasons, deep into a hellish, beast-haunted landscape known as The Blight. In order to fight the current ruler of Arran (an enormous, lethal and fiercely intelligent fire drake by the name of Saramanth) the Talarian people send a detachment to uncover something with enough power to take her on, and keep their lands from falling under the control of this fell creature.
So far, so simple. Big scary monster, people who want it dead, others are sent to stop them. But there is so much more to this. For one thing, I've just read the book, and I STILL don't know whose side I'm on. We are not talking a dragon sitting on a pile of gold, sending out occasional orders for Kentucky Fried Virgins to keep her from rampaging all over the shop, gobbling up miller's daughters and scaring the heck out of everyone. Saramanth is much smarter and far more interesting than that, and while there is an abundance of people who hate her for good reasons, there are plenty of others who think she's just about the best thing to ever happen to them. Who's right? Well... That's up to you.
Ward subverts your expectations at every turn and by the time you're into the third act, you're struggling to remember the last time you stopped to blink. In places funny, in places horrifying, it's a fine debut that demands a sequel just as soon as he can write one.
Thus I was looking forward to a feature length continuation of this setting, and Ward doesn’t disappoint. Into the Blight covers the reaction of the wider world to Saramanth’s coup over the fantasy nation of Arran, in particular the dread of the neighbouring kingdom of Taleria and their attempt to find a counter to this by travelling to a disturbing realm of cursed magic and fantastical monsters, known only as the Blight.
It is a very narratively tight novel, following two main story strands, that of Captain Beth Lester who is sent to retrieve a legendary creature to face the firedrake, and Brin, last of the Bask, who is sent by Saramanth to stop them. Both sides are morally ambiguous, and become further compromised as they adventure across the Blight, but neither side outright slides into simple villain territory; both are justified in their intentions, even if the results are… well… bloody terrifying. The motivations of the Talerian faction has echoes of the cold war, with the soviet nuclear panic over America’s A-bomb, transposed into a fantastical setting. Dragons in a fantasy setting are WMDs which fundamentally change the game of war, and Ward gives this concept the dramatic heft it deserves.
Once the two factions get to the Blight, the story really picks up the pace and it never really lets up until the epic conclusion. The Blight’s gallery of bizarre fauna is interesting, unpredictable and an ever present source of tension.
Anyone who is a fan of complex, conflicted characters and eccentric monsters in their fantasy should look no further than Into the Blight. A thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp. Highly recommended.
The truth is I really enjoyed this book, it moves along at a good pace, it's easy to keep track of who is who, where they are and what they are doing. The characters are engaging and understandable, even if I didn't agree with some of the choices they were making I could see how the logic worked for the character to reach their decision. I hope that we will see more from these characters and this author in the future.
So be comforted in the knowledge that should you purchase this book you will be getting a very entertaining read.
Top international reviews
This book is a fast-paced, page-turner. Once I got down to it, I read in a matter of days. Let's support this author so that I can read the next chapter in this story! (No spoilers, but it MIGHT end in a tad of a cliffhanger)