fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsVeil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards fantasy book reviewsVeil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards

Jeff Salyards’ BLOODSOUNDER’s ARC is a fantasy series in the gritty vein: harsh and bloody, though with a bit of humor mixed in. Veil of the Deserters, its second installment, is an interesting blend of political maneuvering and realistic tactical combat in the era of swords and crossbows.

Arki is the historian/scribe for the company of Captain Braylar Killcoin from the Syldoonian Empire. Momentous events have happened in the previous book as CPT Killcoin and his soldiers continue their mission to create chaos in the city of Alespell. For Arki, it’s a culture clash; his background as a highly educated archivist gives him a very different perspective on life and death than the members of the Jackal Tower who employ him. Arki must learn that mercy and justice often have no place in the murky, violent world in which he now lives.

Salyards’ world-building is fascinating. In describing the nation of Syldoon and how its soldiers are recruited, trained and organized, he paints a complex picture of a country that exists for conflict, victory, and conquest. The penalties for failure are enormous, and the rewards for success seem almost paltry to our eyes. I loved reading about it. It would make an incredible strategy game pitting one tower against another and letting the planning, plotting and talents of the tower commanders lead to destruction or glory.

Captain Killcoin is a prickly, unpredictable commander of an elite group of Syldoon soldiers. Salyards depicts a powerful camaraderie among the soldiers, in events such as the delivery of money by a loyal friend to a newly widowed wife of a Syldoon soldier. The rift between Captain Killcoin’s troops and the Memordians, magically talented augmentees assigned to the same Tower, further shows the loyalty that the soldiers have to each other. When even the people who are supposed to support you are a threat to bring you down, you have to learn to trust deep and hard with the people who really have your back.

Veil of the Deserters also chronicles a continued evolution of the world, as the former gods have left. There are many references to why, and there is still even a functional religion with powerful clergy to reckon with. Exactly what the religion’s dogma is, and how they fill the void left by the gods, is something of a mystery, and there are still many reminders of what once was. The Godsveil between this world and another is one example. Magical artifacts, like the flail named Bloodsounder that Captain Killcoin wields and suffers tremendous side-effects from, are yet another.

I liked Veil of the Deserters quite well. The characters are salty, rough around the edges, but likeable. The organization and detail of the Empire of Syldoon is well thought out and fascinating. So, even when the story occasionally gets bogged down or the main character makes dumb choices, the story holds the reader’s interest. A gritty, harsh world exists between the pages of Veil of the Deserters, and if you can stand some rough language and realistic combat, then it’s a very good book indeed.

~John Hulet

Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards fantasy book reviewsI liked this just as well as I liked the first one. Arki makes a great protagonist. Here he learns exactly why he’s been hired to be an archivist and he learns that mercy sometimes backfires. The audio version, produced by Audible Studios and expertly narrated by Kris Chung, is highly recommended!

~Kat Hooper

Bloodsounder’s Arc — (2012-2016) Publisher: Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself. Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next. Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience! A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

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  • John Hulet

    JOHN HULET is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years. We still hear from him every once in a while.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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