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“Huge like the night sky was the woman looking over Dayraven, so large she shut out the sun. Lank strands of hair stuck to her head, and wounds festered with puss all over her gigantic body. Squirming lumps – maggots that were people – crawled beneath the putrid grey flesh hanging in loose folds from her enormous bone. Hideous was her wrinkled visage, and her tongue red as blood lolled between sharp, yellow teeth. Her face sagged so low that her red-veined eyeballs protruded until they almost fell out as they rolled around. The reek of decaying corpses nearly drove Dayraven to bury his face in his brown robe, but he sat firm and faced her.”

Full disclosure: I received a copy from the author of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided below.

Sprinkled with elements of Buddhism, harking back to timeless ancient classics such as “Beowulf”, the “Iliad”, and more modern masterpieces such as “The Lord of the Rings”, while maintaining an accessible feel like recent standout fantasy works, such as “The Faithful and the Fallen”, author Philip Chase takes sprawling, ambitious, epic fantasy to new heights in his sequel to “The Way of Edan”, with the second installment of the dark fantasy “Edan Trilogy”, entitled, “The Prophet of Edan”.

This book could easily have been entitled, “The War of the Way”. The plot focuses on Supreme High Priest Bledla’s nefarious plans to bring the entire realm of Eormenlond under the mastery of the religion of the Prophet of Edan. Via blood and fire, sparing no victims who will not submit. Led of course, by him, who sees himself as the heir to Edan’s legacy.

However, the massive armies Bledla has at his disposal (outside of the creatures at his command) are those technically belonging to the voracious King Earconwald II, who believes he is the true conqueror, not his tenuous ally, Bledla.

As Bledla and Earconwald’s battle designs, bringing mayhem, and death, come to fruition, meanwhile, the other high priests subservient to Bledla, including Joruman and Arna, have their own agendas, as they try to keep their subplots hidden from their master, Bledla, risking their lives, to move own plans into motion.

As all this is happening, the allies resisting the coming War of the Way, are few, beleaguered, and bickering.

But the powerful sorceress Sequara, heir to Queen Faldria of Asdralad, together with the novice but seemingly uber-powerful, yet humble magic-user Dayraven, and their stalwart allies like Galdor, Orvandil, Gnorn, Abon, Imharr, and Urd, strive to unite this resistance.

Still, they must individually ready themselves to play their unique parts in the coming war. Yet, they are not the only important players.

The defiant King Balch of Adanon will figure prominently in the imminent conflict. As will all the tribal people of the the realm.

Those who are nomads, not stone-dwellers like the denizens of the great kingdoms of Eormenlond, are rising. Names like Munzil, last of the Grey Wolves Tribe, whose Grey Wolves were eradicated by the Bear Fangs tribe twelve years ago. Names like the puissant Gorn, chieftain of the Boar Clan of the Fire Dragon Tribe, and the Fire Dragons war leader, Surt will mean a lot, in terms of deciding the balance of power.

Those thought to be barbarians and outsiders, will assert themselves too, in the War of the Way.

And all this will have devastating consequences for the people of Eormenlond, caught up in a land ravaged by marauding armies, and dragon-fire.

We are treated, in “The Prophet of Edan”, to more outstanding character work by Chase. I loved the transformation of some of the more abjectly “good” characters.

We see some of our shiny heroes gain a bit more grit, grimness, even a bit of healthy skepticism or cynicism, in a way that was not at all over the top, and was a nuanced, slight change, consistent with the character and their experiences since the first book, and what occurs in this second book.

“Morale among the forces fighting against the Torrlonders reflected their despair. They were sick of the harsh life of the mountains, sick of each other, and sick of death. Only hatred of the Torrlonders kept them going. ‘If I must, I will use hate.'”

Truly, I did want a bit more of my favourite grey and morally ambiguous characters (love Jouruman!). Yet they got enough page time to really make their presence felt, and Chase maximizes their impact to the story, in what page time they did receive.

I noted in my review of “The Prophet of Edan”, I really liked Sequara’s aloofness, air of detachment, and mystery, despite her definitely being a noble character. In that review I also opined if her austerity will change in future novels, and if it does, how, and why.

Well, I got my answer. Chase does awesome things with this character, as she truly emerges to be a central figure, right along with Dayraven, as perhaps the overarching main character. I also adored their burgeoning relationship, and it is beautifully depicted by Chase. It is heartfelt, tender, and of course, the reader will fear what danger might tragically end what is blossoming before it has a chance to fully flower.

“In that silence, their two minds danced, nearly touching one another, but holding back at the last moment.”

I will speak more of Dayraven later in the review, but suffice to say for now, I found his arc to be extremely intriguing and satisfying in this book.

In terms of worldbuilding, I am still in awe of the craftsmanship Chase has applied to building Eormenlond.

To reiterate, it is as rich and complete as some of the most notable fantasy worlds, like Middle Earth, Westeros, and Athera.

With all the magical creatures and diverse human races (elves, dweorgs, aglaks, slime-monsters, and more) already inhabiting Chase’s world, the author decided to take things to another level, and add DRAGONS!!! Yes, DRAGONS!! And they are absolutely frightening!

Inspired by Norse tradition, Chase continues to immerse the reader with histories, prophecies, lore, religions, cultures, races, languages, poetry, and song. All these elements delight and enchant, and add to the richness and scope of the work.

The creation song, beginning on page 320 of the book, is a wondrous example of Chase’s brilliance in what he has created with this series. I will add but a small excerpt of it here…

“Hungry was Hringvolnir, in her heart greed gnawed
Eager to eat, she eyed the old oak,
The branch that birthed her she broke with her teeth
She fed on the first-born, the fout of life.
Her yearning never yielded, for years she devoured,
And her belly grew big, like a barrow it swelled
With the murders of mortals, all monsters are her kin
Until burst forth her brood, the bane of mankind.”

In terms of magic, “The Prophet of Edan”, we learn much more about the main magic power, ‘the gift’. This power is wielded by not only mighty priests of the Way like Bledla, but by sundry persons such as Dayraven, who comes from humble stock, so it seems.

Yet there is still a lot to be discovered there, and the air of mystery surrounding what the limits to the abilities of people such as Dayraven could be will keep readers guessing, and yearning acquire more knowledge about the magic and mysteries, that will not doubt be revealed in the finale of the series.

I could speak for pages and pages about the many themes in the novel, and this series thus far. But what I will speak of in this review, is that, it was as if Chase was literally speaking to ME, when I consider the central theme in this book.

The linkage and contrasts between what is faith and spirituality, versus what is religion and the trapping and hierarchy around organized religion, is something that I am utterly fascinated by, and one that I very much ponder in my own writing.

In “The Prophet of Edan”, Chase compares Bledla’s religious zealotry, which relies heavily on wielding not only his terrifying magic, but also wielding the power and influence of the church of Edan, for conquest, mass destruction and wholesale slaughter of those who oppose the church dogma.

Of course, it is all justified as for noble purposes, and to serve the glory of Edan. But this more extroverted, vainglorious, malevolent, and ultimately self-serving use of religion, is contrasted with the more introverted, meaningful, and spiritual journey of Dayraven to find inner mastery of the magic he holds, and peace within himself.

Dayraven’s journey is one of solitude, and self-reflection. While Bledla preens and relishes his position over others, as not only the most powerful magic user (outside of Dayraven himself) in the land, but also at the pinnacle of the religion’s hierarchy as its Supreme Priest.

Status and appurtenance, how he appears to others, being the one to hold sway, dominating, and being in control of and manipulating everything, is valued by Bledla.

Meanwhile Dayraven cares nothing for rank and panoply, in fact he rejects it, and rejects the very notion of control. He strives to improve himself, as a means to provide salvation for others, and realizes that in many ways he must cede control in order to thrive and triumph.

Immaculate in its pacing, not too slow, not too fast, the length of the book at approximately 600 pages will likely go unnoticed. If anything, one may complain it ends too soon.

In my review of “The Way of Edan”, I noted that perhaps, some of the criticism of the book might centre around some of the well-worn tropes. Especially the “chosen-one”, unaware of his value, from a small village, who seems syrupy good, surrounded by loyal friends, etc.

Well, Chase puts that to rest, as that syrupy good lad really evolves and grows into an extremely well-fleshed out, and uniquely compelling character, with a fascinating arc.

Some readers may have found Dayraven, despite being essentially the protagonist of the series, to be somewhat muted in Book One, with many other characters stealing the show, standing out more than Dayraven.

Dayraven truly comes into his own in this second book, and I believe readers will love the new dimensions and depth Chase adds to his character.

Chase’s fighting sequences continue to be Gwynne-esque, marvellously choreographed, thrilling, and ultimately, quite bloody. The author ratchets up the blood factor in this second book, as the War of the Way goes into full swing, and the new, absolutely devastating element is introduced onto the battlefield of dragons.

The carnage will be horrific, and as the body count rises, heroes die, and valour seems fruitless, the reader will wonder what, if anything, can be done to stem the irresistible tide of death being brought to bear by the unholy alliance of Earconwald and Bledla.

I had to make note of one particular duel in the book which will rip your heart out, as two heroic characters that you are meant to root for, fight it out to the death, due to the complicated sides drawn by the War of the Way. Not surprisingly, only one of them comes out of it breathing.

Wow. The fight is breathtaking, and the result is a complete gut-punch.

Chase does not sacrifice his commitment to engaging prose in an enthralling story filled with heart-stopping combat, comprehensive worldbuilding, and themes that will have the reader thinking about the book long after the reading is completed.

Merging the colloquial and the classical, with poetry, fables, and witticisms, the writing in the book is wonderful. That said, if anything, as everyone knows how I feel about lyrical prose, Chase’s writing is even more accessible in this volume than the previous one, as a whole. I won’t dissemble here: I thought that fact might detract a bit from my enjoyment. It didn’t at all.

And when Chase does dial into the more elaborate prose, and the archaisms, in this book, particularly surrounding Dayraven’s arc, it is pure delight, and absolutely fits the tone of the character’s spiritual evolution.

No dreaded “second book syndrome” here. Book Two of the “Edan Trilogy” takes so much of what was amazing about the first book, and improves upon it, thus making this trilogy one of the standouts in recent Indie SFF series.

“The Prophet of Edan” falls squarely within the ambit of my current top five reads for Indie SFF 2023. The fact that one of the books it’s competing with, and currently sitting ahead of, is its predecessor, “The Way of Edan”, says a lot about how Chase managed to exceed his masterful first book, with this second installment.

Seldom have I looked forward to the conclusion of a series, the way I am eager to read the finale of the “Edan Trilogy”, which is entitled “Return to Edan”.

BUY IT HERE!

 

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