“Words cannot describe what we have no context for.”
Andrew D. Meredith turns the worldbuilding knob up to eleven in Bone Shroud, the second installment in his epic fantasy series, The Kallattian Saga. Bone Shroud does everything a good sequel should do, building upon the solid foundation of the first volume, Deathless Beast, while taking the story to new heights.
Meredith truly shines with his Brandon Sanderson-level worldbuilding, having considered every detail of the history, geography, ecology, and theology of this complex world. Most remarkable is the organic way by which Meredith introduces new elements of his world, without any awkward info dumps that, unfortunately, have become a common crutch used throughout many epic fantasies.
Bone Shroud also features outstanding character development work. The cast of characters all feel so relatable, facing the common challenges of personal identity and finding one’s place in the world. As Bone Shroud opens, the Black Sentinels, including brother-and-sister duo Hanen and Rallia Clouw, are trying to establish a new role in a new land. Meanwhile, Jined Brazstein is navigating through religious schism within the Paladins, struggling to remain true to his values while preserving the integrity of his order. Astrid Glass, head of the guard for the Paladames (and possessor of the undeniably coolest name in the book), is trying her best to find inner peace after a terrible tragedy.
One of the main mysteries from Deathless Beast involves a seemingly ageless seed pod that is found by Katiam Borreau, a Paladame of the Rose who serves as personal physician for their matriarch. The seed pod has been carefully guarded for centuries and is now starting to sprout in Bone Shroud.
I love a good soft magic system and thoroughly enjoyed seeing new layers of magic unfold in Bone Shroud. Somehow, I feel like this is only the beginning, and we’ll be seeing a lot more in Meredith’s subsequent volumes of The Kallattian Saga.
While personal faith featured prominently throughout Deathless Beast, the focus in Bone Shroud shifts toward conflicts within and between the organized religions in Kallattia. One of the intriguing aspects of Meredith’s world is that the gods are walking amongst the people, interacting with them and perhaps even manipulating them toward their own goals. One of the new features in Bone Shroud is the emergence of a force that could be even more powerful than the gods themselves.
Andrew D. Meredith’s ever eloquent and carefully polished prose feels as timeless as Katiam’s magical seed pod. The first half of Bone Shroud maintains the same unhurried pace of Deathless Beast. But the plot kicks into overdrive at around the halfway point, leading to a major twist at the end of the book that took me completely by surprise.
Bone Shroud is classic epic fantasy par excellence, combining meticulous worldbuilding with a compelling cast of characters and a nuanced plot. I highly recommend this series for anyone who wishes to lose themselves in an intricately crafted new world.
Review originally published at Grimdark Magazine.