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"Something frantic built in Tashués chest, something wild and raw. It had been a long time since he'd looked down on the body of a child so horribly mutilated."

Trigger warning: I think it goes without saying that this book includes scenes of graphic violence as well as references to miscarriages.
 
Now that I have your undivided attention…
 
Welcome to the Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar. An immersive gaslight fantasy that is best served alongside a cold dram of copper stilled whiskey (or seven). This is a book that has been making a lot of noise within the SFF Twitter community and for a good reason. I’ve been processing about picking up this book for a while, but finally took the inevitable plunge. This isn’t your regular fantasy story. I was completely impressed with how a huge variety of genre tones are mish-mashed seamlessly into the overarching story. 
 
If I had to pick sub-genres other than gaslight, I’d say pulp noir and mystery predominately come to mind. But Krystle also clearly has a desire to pay homage to numerous others including romance, conspiracy, court intrigue, sci-fi and grimdark to name a few. And the amazing thing… Is that all these elements are blended masterfully, together just like a bottle of aged Bowmore 12 single malt whisky. 
 
Oh and whisky is mentioned a lot in this book. (In case you couldn’t tell).
 
The story follows our central protagonist, Tashué Blackwood, veteran cavalier, now working as Regulation Officer keeping both registered/unregistered “tainted” civilians in check across the city. This is a society where civilians with magical abilities (or talents) are known as tainted and must be controlled by the authority. One day Tashué discovers the body of a girl washed up in his neighborhood. With no one else seeming to care for the mysterious origin of this girl, it’s down to Tashué to investigate the matter further. But the secrets he unveils will not only shock him to the core, but also challenge him to question everything he’s ever dutifully believed in.
 
I’m a sucker for a storyline shrouded in mystery and Brightwash does not disappoint in this regard. The investigation storyline doesn’t dominate the read-through but runs in perfect harmony with all the other storylines without derailing any of the pivotal character development.
 
But let’s talk about intimacy for a second… 
 
“His hands ached to reach out to her, to take her in his arms, to press his face into that beautiful hair, to feel her skin against his body.” 
 
There’s this superb refinement and intricate detail to character moments, both romantically and otherwise. Krystle Matar does a terrific job of immersing us inside the thoughts and feelings of her characters. This defines them on not just a personal view but a more intimate and profound level. This is the difference between following a character and following a character that you know. We become familiar with all of the characters and their conflicts, inner-desires, objectives and even emotions. It’s sensational.
 
All these characters quickly gravitate away from becoming defined archetypes, growing into individuals that are far more layered and personable. Tashué could easily have been a carbon copy of the lawful veteran. But instead what we’re given is a very complex protagonist. We see his flaws and weaknesses in equal measure to his strengths and positive attributes. Tashué is almost as self-destructive as he is righteous. I couldn’t help but be hooked by his actions at every turn, be it led by his somewhat short temper and hot-headedness or by his calm and controlled demeanor. His arc is a pleasure to watch unfold.
 
And the beauty is that he isn’t the only character like this. All five of the POV characters feel incredibly rich with personality and raw emotion. As they break out of their stereotypical moulds into roles which are deeply vibrant and compelling. Even the side characters give off these familiar vibes. It’s a commendation to the author for such careful, detailed and personal character work. 
 
I can’t proceed the review without discussing the other characters that surround Tashué and all the chaos he attracts (and causes). Firstly we have Stella. If Tashué is the lead male, them Stella is certainly the leading woman. I love her devotion to protecting those that she loves while also concealing several secrets that haunt her from the past. Jason, Tashué’s son, reveals a darker side to the entire authoritative institution. His feelings for his family, feel so raw and sentimental. You can feel the pain of this character, but also this burning passionate fire inside him. Lorne’s loyalties between duty and family really hit me hard, but inevitably I couldn’t help but be sucked into his fierce fighting spirit as well as his true devotion blazing inside his heart. And finally we have Ileana, certainly the most divisive character, but once you get to know her, you can’t help but be intrigued as she sets her ambitious plans into motion. Her sultry fatale vibes both entertain and enrapture me.
 
If that wasn’t enough we have the equally chaotic antics of Ishmael, the wholesome charm of “little warrior” Ceridwen (the best written child character I’ve encountered for a while.) As well as Kaz, a character who’s loyal friendship to Tashué leaves me craving more. I guess my point is that if you’re looking for substantial, motivated characters, then you are truly spoiled for choice.
 
Truthfully the only flaw I could find in this novel was the knowledge that this book might not appeal to readers who crave relentless action and are addicted to a faster pacing. This is a book that relishes taking it’s time to absorb you into the characters, their dilemmas and the environment around them. It favours a slower yet smooth and intimate pace, and I know that might not be to everyone’s taste. 
 
“They aren’t human.” 
 
The themes explored in this novel are overwhelmingly powerful but not in a way that spoils the experience with the characters and plot. Krystle has clearly endeavoured to work to the finest, meticulous details to ensure that these ideas and concepts are embedded organically into the text.
 
All the juicy themes like, corruption, guilt, morality, classes, loyalty, redemption, forgiveness and justice are explored in a deliciously rewarding and more-ish way. This only adds more depth and ambiance to the story. We’re left with a world that is so beautifully dark that we can’t help but be enthralled in both the moments of sheer delight and happiness while also invested in the heavily cold and harsh events that balance out this realm.
 
The characters have to suffer. Matar is aware that when characters make decisions, that there must be the price with brutal consequences and ramifications. And this has a knock-on effect where our entire roster of conflicted personalities begin to effect one another’s lives, sometimes for the better, but like the cruelty of reality, most likely for the worst.
 
I loved the exploration of social class and hierarchy in this book. It’s yet another rich component that helps to define the laws, structure and order to the magic system, history and culture in this world. Something tells me that were only scraping the surface of this topic and that it might become a more prominent theme in further novels.
 
 “I’m sorry I didn’t know how to save you.” 
 
But in the end I ultimately find myself ensnared by the dark realism to this fantasy world. It’s the buried secrets, the sinister order of society and the lack of altruistic behaviour from antagonistic characters that truly has me hooked. Often as a reader we’re quick to label definitive heroes and villains to a story. But I find myself in a predicament here. There’s a larger force at play. Where this grey world has been built by collective influences, I can’t help but feel that the true big bad is actually the darker traits to humanity carried in every single human being. It’s the willingness to turn a blind eye to the cruel reality standing in front of you that really hits me hard. The decision to conform and commit under fear, greed or pride rather than to do what is morally right. It’s inevitable that with such stellar and masterful writing, that Matar will inadvertently encourage us as readers to question our own ideals. Emotively hitting us in the heartstrings with points which are so empathetically relatable. This is something which is engrained into our nature as human beings. To think, to feel and to ultimately be the master of the actions that define us. 
 
Pick up this book if you like:  Intimate character work. A sleuth of compelling pulpy mysteries. Rich snippets of numerous sub-genres intertwined into fantasy. Relatable themes that resonate with human nature. A dark world filled with graphic detail and explicit cuss words. A reason to pick up a dram of whisky while reading.
 
You might like this book if you’ve read and enjoyed the following books: We Men of Ash and Shadow. Breach of Peace. Dresden Files. The Blade itself. 
 
The Final Verdict: 10 out of 10. 

Benjamin from Literature & lofi

benjamin

Hey the name’s Benjamin from Literature & Lofi. You can find me posting weekly videos on my booktube channel or on Twitter shouting about my love for Dresden Files out into the void. Reading, reviewing and recording is something I love to do in my free time which is steadily requiring more and more caffeine as the channel builds momentum. My passion for the fantasy genre was reignited a couple years ago. Now I’m trying to make up for lost time by reading some of the big household names, while also advocating for indie/SelfPub books. (A section of the SFF community that is growing rapidly). My goal is to spark constructive discussions within the reading community. I try to be a positive reviewer, looking for the strengths in books and critically considering who they are perfect for. Recently I’ve gained an interest in urban fantasy and the next year will entail me diving much deeper into that sub-genre. My guilty pleasure is reading romantic fantasy. I’m also beginning to dip my toes into grimdark. Champion of #IndieAugust Creator of #FebruarySheWrote

LiteratureAndLofi

LiteratureAndLofi

Hey the name's Benjamin from Literature & Lofi. You can find me posting weekly videos on my booktube channel or on Twitter shouting about my love for Dresden Files out into the void. Reading, reviewing and recording is something I love to do in my free time which is steadily requiring more and more caffeine as the channel builds momentum. My passion for the fantasy genre was reignited a couple years ago. Now I'm trying to make up for lost time by reading some of the big household names, while also advocating for indie/SelfPub books. (A section of the SFF community that is growing rapidly). My goal is to spark constructive discussions within the reading community. I try to be a positive reviewer, looking for the strengths in books and critically considering who they are perfect for. Recently I've gained an interest in urban fantasy and the next year will entail me diving much deeper into that sub-genre. My guilty pleasure is reading romantic fantasy. I'm also beginning to dip my toes into grimdark. Champion of #IndieAugust Creator of #FebruarySheWrote

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