Fantasy Review: ‘Veil of the Deserters’ by Jeff Salyards

I read this book, Scourge of the Betrayer. It was a strange little tale, fun and smart, and Veil of the Deserters (Bloodsounder's Arc, #2)ended without answering a single question I had about what was really going on. Rather than being annoyed by this I was intrigued; the scribe telling us the story was just as confused as the reader.

Turns out it didn’t matter, almost everything we learned in book one was suspect. Arkamondos, our lovable scribe narrating the tale, was taken in hook line and sinker by false tales and red herring. As everything is being held so close to the vest that all we know in this world is what Arki does, some expectations are going to have to be readjusted as new info comes our way. And come our way it does, the information flies this time around. World history, actual specifics of the mission, and thanks to Arki’s skills of translation, some info on a certain magical weapon on which this story seems to be hinging.

I was a bit worried that the story would lack due to a character missing from the first outing; said character’s death was truly unexpected in a genre that usually telegraphs them for a reader. Not to worry, a couple of new characters pick up the slack and then some. Soffjian, the good captain’s sister, turns up to lead the group back home; despite a bit of reluctance from the company. She quickly takes over the show, the sibling rivalry gone nuclear keeps some tension even during long periods of travel. And while she quickly became my favorite character the cast from the first book continues to delight. A certain insult prone soldier with a bad attitude is in fine form; and when he shows what passes as a soft spot for Arki it actually gives, wait for it, the feels.

The narrative of this series has a pretty cool dynamic that continues to intrigue me as much as the story itself. Arki is the protagonist, and the story is told by him in the first person. Yet for the most part he is an outlier to the action, giving us a first person narrator telling the story from something closer to a third person style. Except, of course, when he is dragged into the action, at which point the whole style changes while staying the same. For some reason this unique style pleases me.

I should note that this book is quite a bit longer than the first book. This wasn’t something I was a huge fan of because a huge chunk of this was backstory presented through conversations as the group traveled. I appreciate that Arki is a scribe and prone to over recording information. But huge amounts of world building are dumped into these conversations, specifically the history of the Syldoon Empire. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it is a well thought out history. But for me it caused the book to drag through the middle. Thankfully once the group hit their destination this drag stopped and I was back to excited for the final quarter of the book.

Like all good middle books Veil of the Deserters gives some conclusion to early story lines while upping the ante for a future outing.  Already my mind turns as I try to figure out how the earlier mission will fit into the new reality the company has found itself in. Some very different plot lines Salyards has to tie together; I can’t wait to see how it all fits together.

Plus I really hope giant killer ground based birds come into play again. I really liked those. Just thought you should know.

4 Stars

Review copy provided by publicist.

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