“‘A friend once told me that people are like trees. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter how many broken branches you have, or how many leaves you’ve lost. If a tree is standing, it’s no less whole than the trees beside it.'”
Multiple award-winning fantasy author, SPFBO/BBYNA Finalist, and winner at Indies Today Best Fantasy, Zack Argyle has become a well-recognized name in Indie fantasy circles. As a matter of fact, he may be one of the MOST recognized names, with all the accolades behind him, after two novels published.
But praise and hardware aside, perhaps one of the strictest tests for any author’s credibility and success is how they finish up a series. Under that pressure, Argyle consummately delivers a knockout punch with his third novel, the conclusion to his “Threadlight” series, in “Bonds of Chaos”, a series I wasn’t supposed to like, that I ended up loving!
**Please note**this review touches on events that occurred in previous books in the series – thus potential SPOILERS for the previous two books, “Voice of War” and “Stones of Light”.**
“‘There is a year attached to the creation of something and a year attached to its destruction. Those are the true moments of significance. Everything else is just a dash…But with these, this will be an unforgettable year. With these, we will create a legacy.'”
We return to the continent of Arasin for the final installment in “Threadlight”, where the final showdown against the terrifying Heralds looms. The surviving heroes have been brought together, and they must make a desperate plan to face down creatures akin to gods, who are bent on destruction.
The Heralds and their vicious armies of malignant corespawn, and those humans following the Heralds who have been led astray by the so-called divinity of the Heralds, and serve them out of genuine devotion and worship, or simply oppression and fear, seem unbeatable.
Are there any allies that can aid the small, hopelessly outnumbered heroes led by Chrys Valerin, former High General of Alchea, that can join them in the fight? Or is the world doomed? Or can the heroes prevail, somehow, all on their own?
The main strength of Bonds of Chaos and “Threadlight” has consistently been my most appreciated element of any novel or series: its emphasis on characterization.
“The anger boiling inside him crescendoed, flaring in his chest. What the hell did it matter anyway?….Who a man at his core has nothing to do with those who came before him. It may change where you are and who you know, but the true crux of a man is defined by him alone.”
Yes, I’m most drawn to those morally grey and sometimes downright despicable characters, this is a book and a series with essentially good main characters (save the outright villains) who are imperfect, but even in their faults, we can unashamedly root for them.
Chyrs’ reluctant hero, a warlord by trade, who still embodies compassion, humour, and empathy, and who is very much an “everyman”, who cares most about his family, and will sacrifice everything to be with them, and keep them safe, is a great protagonist. Chyrs is a husband and a father first, and a warrior by necessity, and he is willing to risk everything only because he has everything (his family, his friends and others like them) to lose.
I also loved watching his relationship with Iriel, who is courageous, intuitive, and a brilliant character in her own right who insists on equal partnership in her marriage, and always stands up for what she believes in, and thinks is right. Even if her husband isn’t necessarily ready to hear it, or ready to accept that Iriel is entitled to and must take on the same sort of risks as Chrys, in order for the greater good.
Torn between maternal instincts to protect their son Aydin, and the need to be an active part of the defence against evil, Iriel was wonderfully drawn by Argyle.
The marriage was depicted honestly, realistically, healthily, with all the complex warts and wonder of any successful couple, who share abiding love and mutual respect.
Laurel’s arc is still the most fascinating for me. Hers is the one that is perhaps the most about redemption, and absolution arcs are always among the ones I love to read about the most. The Fairenwild dweller has gone from Messenger, to runaway, to fugitive, to crippled and shut off from magic, to orphaned and more.
She’s one of the edgier main characters, and she’s striven to forge her own path, insistent on doing it her way, and her headstrong ways have sometimes caused as much damage as good. However she’s definitely a character to watch, and continues to play the pivotal role she has throughout the series, in this final book.
“Side by side with her companion, her friend, her second soul, she met the onslaught of smaller corespawn with more energy than she’d ever had before. She was a flaming wall. She was the hand of death. She was the alpha.”
The final main character, Alvarex, is perhaps the one who carries the greatest burdens of the primary players. Alvarex is a man who knows and understands what it’s like to reach unexpected heights, achieve milestones and relationships that were unexpected and become treasured, then fail and lose those things, seemingly by partially one’s own fault.
Driven by guilt, doubt, and revenge, his character is also a testament to the power of perseverance, overcoming adversity and loss, and not being afraid to embrace one’s destiny. For someone who might have been dismissed as perhaps least important of the primary characters, with the way he was introduced in “Voice of War”, Alvarex certainly proved what a critical role he had to the fate of Arasin in “Bonds of Chaos”.
The supplemental players are all fabulous too, in this book. Willow, Roshaw, Thallin, Malachus, Henna, and of course dear Asher were standouts for me. And of course, LUTHER, despite his brief page-time!!
Be warned: there is emotional devastation coming in this book. Many of the detested baddies will receive a reckoning, but some of those beloved players that you prayed would make it through the end of the series, won’t.
One particular demise (though I was more intrigued by this person, rather than being as much a fan of said character as I was of some of the others) still hit me hard when it happened. That’s the skill of a very good writer, when non-favourite character deaths have such an impact on a reader.
Of all the themes encapsulated in “Bonds of Chaos” and “Threadlight”, family and found family is the undeniable heart of it all. Loss, self-sacrifice, heroism, consequences of decision-making, ends justifying the means, the cost of victory, betrayal, greed, lust for power, and other issues are also raised in the book, and well handled by the author.
In terms of worldbuilding, yes we have chormawolves, corespawn, the wastelanders, monster apes, the gold-like Heralds, the distinct realms of Alchea versus Felia, etc.
While not drawn in very intricate detail, Argyle gives us enough of his worldbuilding to keep us engaged and immersed. Yet, the real hallmark of the world is the magic system, the most detailed element of Argyle’s world: “Threadlight”. This magic system is often compared to, and apparently inspired by the works of iconic author Brandon Sanderson, and Stormlight. Argyle, like Sanderson, truly showcases his magic, when it comes to combat in the book.
With Sanderson-like bedazzlement, Argyle knows how to write a magical fight scene in crystal clear, vivid fashion, as his main characters combine the brilliance and beauty of “Threadweaving” with more conventional physical weapons like swords, their fists, or anything they can use to survive and defeat the enemy. The battle sequences are great, and the penultimate one for the book, and the series, was very well done.
Argyle’s prose is clear, efficient and accessible, nothing fancy, but also without concerns. No secret I cleave to the more lavish writing of authors like Wurts, Martin, and the like. But nothing wrong with a straightforward method of writing that conveys the story well, moves the plot along relentlessly, and still has some beautiful, noteworthy passages, some of which I have quoted in this review.
I should mention, as with the previous two books in the series, this book comes in at well under 400 pages. Thus not only is it a very quick read due to the smaller page count, it reads FAST. Going from momentous moment to momentous moment, with nary a minute to draw breath, “Bonds of Chaos” propels the reader headlong, as the title implies, into chaos, pretty-well non-stop action, while not stinting on those quieter, reflective, poignant moments between characters, expressing love, friendship, and loyalty, that will hit you in the feels.
If you crave fast-paced when it comes to your fantasy reads, this is JUST what you asked for. The tension keeps rising, the stakes keep rising, and the heroes are put in even more deadly situations as the chapters progress.
The ending was immensely satisfying, and as mentioned above, I even got to FINALLY find out what happened to LUTHER (one of my favs), which was probably THE most burning question I had in the whole series, despite all the other far more important things going on!
I can talk all I want about desiring a bit more absorbing worldbuilding, more elevated prose, more weighty themes, and a more voluminous tome. But the truth is, while I adore all those things in a fantasy novel that “Bonds of Chaos” does not possess, this book, and this series, still very much worked for me. Goes to show that books that are not normally one’s favourite fare, can end up being thoroughly enjoyed.
It has been a distinct, and very fulfilling pleasure to read “Threadlight”. Right now, “Threadlight” is typically mentioned by many booktubers, bloggers, and other types of reviewers, as among their favourite Indie fantasy series. While I did not initially expect it, it has also become one of mine, currently ranking in my personal top 25.
I truly believe that, as the years progress, in terms of Indie fantasy books, Argyle’s trilogy will go down as one of the most popular, accessible, and well-respected series of all-time. Such acclaim will be well deserved.
Five glowing stars for “Bonds of Chaos”, and congratulations to Argyle for sticking the landing!