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“A king destined to rule. A priest determined to protect his land.
A demon out to Create chaos. A princess with her eyes on the throne.”

Sul: From Gold to Iron and Rust is a book that intrigued me from the moment it came onto my radar. The striking cover just lured me in, and I am happy to say that the story inside proved to be equally entrancing. With its immersive world building, vivid imagery, unique dialogue, diverse cast of characters, rich lore, and of course its numerous gorgeous illustrations, this book is an utterly engrossing experience from start to finish.

The story opens with quite the explosive opening chapter, in which we see the current regent of Sulaai being murdered by a demoness and his young nephew Elmes being forced to take on the burden of the crown. His uncle’s last ‘gift’ to him was a new territory in the frozen North, which half-wild barbarians led by an immortal priest call their home. And despite threats lurking on all sides, Elmes is dead-set on conquering the territory. Yet in the end, his own arrogance and naivete might just prove to be the biggest danger of all.

Now, while Elmes is undoubtedly the focal point of the story, there are three other perspectives who make up this unique and diverse cast of characters. A shape-shifting demoness who is usually in wolf-form, an immortal priest with a vampire as his best friend, and a young and power-hungry royal who is way too ruthless for her own good. It might take a while before all these separate storylines start to interweave, but once they do, it’s quite brilliant to see how intricately crafted this entire story really is.

The authors definitely took a risk in writing such flawed, morally ambiguous, and mostly unlikable (or honestly outright hateable) protagonists, yet I think that they mostly pulled it off. I found it fascinating to be in the minds of these characters and seeing them justify their own questionable actions in their own minds.
Though, as complex and compelling as these characters are, I can’t say I ever really connected to any of them. The beginning of the story felt a bit chaotic to me which made it hard to really get settled, and that did unfortunately hinder my personal investment a bit.

That said, where the character connection left me a bit wanting, the breathtaking world building and mesmerising atmosphere absolutely blew me away. From the very first page it is very clear how much care and effort the authors put into creating this rich world. The world building just felt so organic and all the vivid settings, diverse cultures, and magical/legendary creatures just came to life before my eyes. And the numerous gorgeous artworks in this book only enhanced my immersion, especially as I usually have a very hard time visualising while I read. 

I also really loved how organically the different rich cultures with their unique customs, beliefs, and values were developed. It did take me a bit to get used to the unique dialogue of the Sulaai, where ‘never’ is used instead of ‘no’ as a negative, but once I got a grip on that it only added to the richness of the world.
And I thought the culture clash between the Sulaai and the North was especially fascinating to see, because they are both so confident in their own way of life and convinced of their rightful place in the world. The themes of religion, war, and colonisation are handled in such an appropriately brutal yet tactful way in this story, which added layers of nuance and depth to the story that I really appreciated.

The pacing might have felt somewhat rocky to me in the first half of the book, especially with some sudden time jumps, but I was really impressed with how the plot came together in the second half. Because all of these characters are so flawed and erratic, their individual arcs are very unpredictable and that kept me fully engaged despite the slight lack of connection. The stakes only continued to increase and I loved seeing how these characters had to deal with the brutal consequences of their actions, especially the insufferable Elmes. Whether the harsh lessons will stick remains to be seen, but I am very satisfied and intrigued with the way this story left off.

All in all, this bold fantasy story is honestly quite unlike anything I have ever read, and somehow I have a feeling that we have only just barely scratched the surface of all that’s to be uncovered here. Davis and Grierson have proven to me that they deserve my patience and trust as a reader, and I am very eager to see what wonderful and imaginative things they have up their sleeve next.
If you are looking for an immersive dark fantasy story with rich world building, bold storytelling decisions, beautiful interior artworks, and flawed characters that you can love to hate or hate to love, I would highly recommend Sul: From Gold to Iron and Rust!

3.5/5

Thank you to the authors for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

sul: from gold to iron and rust

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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