Blood of Innocents and A Shattered Empire by Mitchell Hogan fantasy book reviewsBlood of Innocents A Shattered Empire by Mitchell Hogan

Since I read the last two books, Blood of Innocents and A Shattered Empire, in Mitchell Hogan’s SORCERY ASCENDANT series one upon the other, I’m just going to review them together. There may be minor spoilers for book two (you’ll know which characters survive for instance), but I’ll avoid major spoilers. The takeaway is that the series disappoints in its conclusion, making it one I can’t recommend starting, and so as usual with my negative reviews, this will be relatively brief.

The narrative picks up where A Crucible of Souls ended. Caldan is on the run from Anasoma’s invasion with a group of allies (including Amerdan and Elpidia), though that term is used pretty loosely — some are reluctantly part of the group and most have dark secrets. Along the way they manage to pick up one of the invaders’ mages (Bells), who offers the possibility of healing the wounded Miranda and teaching Caldan some of their more advanced magic, even as she plots her escape. As the tale progresses through Blood of Innocents and then into A Shattered Empire, Caldan has to navigate the politics and hostile nature of the Empire’s various factions such as the Protectors, the Warlocks, and the Emperor himself, not to mention the invading forces and the strange group that offers themselves as allies with the Empire against the invaders. As with book one, A Crucible of Souls, we have multiple POVs beyond Caldan’s, including Amerdan, Aidan (soldier with a conscience) and Vasile (the magistrate who can tell when someone is lying).

I found A Crucible of Souls to be relatively uninspired, with issues ranging from thin world building and a reliance on some overly familiar tropes. These problems were at least partially overcome by some likable characters in Caldan and Miranda. Unfortunately, the sequels have the same problems, add a few more, and the characterization is not as strong. Miranda, for instance, is reduced to little more than a prop for much of the story and Amderdan’s story feels like it goes nowhere. In fact, the story feels overall like it lacks an overarching, planned out vision with plot points raised and dropped, the magic feeling arbitrarily employed, plotting turning increasingly muddy, and multiple characters’ actions often making little sense or feeling contradictory.

As noted, the first book had its issues, so I can’t say I was sorely disappointed with the sequels, but I didn’t expect the books to regress either. Hogan shows flashes here and there, and can at times write a taut, strong scene, but the long term consistency and execution just isn’t there.

Originally published in 2013. A Crucible of Souls — An imaginative new talent makes his debut with the acclaimed first installment in the epic Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing tale of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery. When young Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, the boy is raised by monks who initiate him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery. Growing up plagued by questions about his past, Caldan vows to discover who his parents were, and why they were violently killed. The search will take him beyond the walls of the monastery, into the unfamiliar and dangerous chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to become apprenticed to a guild of sorcerers. But the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths he does not fully understand. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that will bring the world to the edge of destruction. Soon, he must choose a side, and face the true cost of uncovering his past.

Blood of Innocents — A novice sorcerer may hold the key to saving his world—or be the instrument of its destruction—in this second book in The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing saga of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery. Anasoma, jewel of the Mahruse Empire, has fallen. As orphaned, monk-raised Caldan and his companions flee the city, leaving behind their hopes for a new beginning, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in. With Miranda’s mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan does the unthinkable to save her: he breaks the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors. But when the emperor’s warlocks arrive to capture him, Caldan realizes that his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing, and the enemies assailing the empire may be rivaled by more sinister forces within. And soon, the blood of innocents may be on Caldan’s own hands.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.