Destiny of the Dead was one of the books I was looking forward to for 2022, and it didn’t let me down
Destiny for the Dead, Kel Kade’s newest addition to the Shroud of the Prophecy series, aims to beat the hero’s journey trope with a hammer. For the most part, this series, and specifically this story, Destiny for the Dead, is very successful in that aim. But I think as the story progresses, it is settling into some more of the common writing patterns we see in fantasy.
“Aaslo rubbed his chest as he led the odd group of horses and undead toward the chamber where he was most likely going to meet his own death.”
The story picks up directly where we left off in the first book, Fate of the Fallen. Aaslo and his merry band of thieves, prophets, drop-out wizards, and the undead are on the march from one spectacular fight to the next. This chapter is much more violent, and Aaslo starts to come into his powers a bit more thoroughly.
Fate of the Fallen aimed to subvert the chosen one trope, which it did well. However, now in book two, it feels like the story is moving towards a found-family quest-type fantasy. The subversion of the chosen one trope feels much less important than it did in Fate of the Fallen. I like how the story is progressing and maturing; I think if Kade kept hammering home how Shroud of the Prophecy was smashing the chosen one trope, it would feel hackneyed. Instead, it balances well.
Plot-wise, much of this story covers the political machinations of various gods and their minions. It is a bubbling brew of characters with different aims working against each other. My only slight qualm with this book is that it can be challenging to follow. There is so much going on that it is hard to latch onto any of the essential side characters. And there is no fluff; all side characters are purposeful to the driving narrative. But there are quite a few, and I got lost in them a few times. However, Aaslo’s group, a found family, if you will, is fantastic. His group is peppered with distinctive voices that I knew and understood and followed.
For instance, Dolt, the weird horse who is more than just a ride, is hilarious. I am convinced that he is the reincarnation of Mathias; that is the sort of energy Dolt brings to the story. Teza is great, as is Mory, Peck, Myra the Reaper, and Ijen the not-so-helpful- Prophet. Ijen gets more fleshed out in this story, as does Myra. We have so much to learn about the two of them. Kade drops some profound tidbits that will be important in the third novel.
Aaslo, our protagonist, is such a refreshing character. Instead of an asshole, the antihero is philosophically an 80-year-old man yelling at folks to get off his lawn. I can picture Aaslo hitting some poor unsuspecting ten-year-old in the ass with a stick for stepping on his begonias. He wants none of this nonsense, but he will put up with it out of duty and love of humanity.
The actual chosen one, Mathias, who was preordained for greatness, resides in a bag that swings from Aslos hip. I love this little bit of macabre that Kade wrote into the story. Not only is the hero dead, but his head hangs from the hip of his best friend, and he talks to Aaslo. Mathias is super dead and an excellent comedic foil for Aaslo so that he might relax a little bit. It doesn’t work, but Mathias tries.
Destiny of the Dead was one of the books I was looking forward to for 2022, and it didn’t let me down. Unique voices, a moving plot, a bit of the macabre, and a unique narrative made this series a lot of fun. I can’t wait for book 3.