“Fate is a cruel mistress, but also an undeniable truth. Whether one likes it… or not.”
“On a silent shore, in a distant land, the world was coming to an end.”
Now, if that brilliant opening line doesn’t immediately set the tone and pull you in, then I don’t know what will. The Fangs of War is a high stakes and gritty military fantasy full of dark and broken characters, cutthroat political intrigue, meddling gods, eldritch monsters, and the best type of emotional turmoil!
The roving forces of Tarraz have brutally executed the King of Provenci, paving the way for a new and brutal military government to launch into power. Commander Alvaraz is dead-set on razing Tarraz to the ground and has built up the largest army seen in a generation. The two nations are plunged into a catastrophic war, which is quickly revealed to be a conflict not only of men, but also one of the divine.
Military fantasy has admittedly always been one of my least favourite subgenres in fantasy, but The Fangs of War made me reconsider that notion. We are thrust headfirst into this war-ravaged world, and Doble really doesn’t shy away from showing the true horror of war. In fact, he leans fully into the darkness and brutality, and I honestly think this story is all the better for it.
The start of the book can feel a bit overwhelming with the quick introduction of all the different POV characters in a whirlwind of action, yet I personally immediately latched onto them all. We follow multiple characters from all walks of life and I loved that this story really hones in how this war is physically and mentally affecting them in different ways. Their struggles, emotional trauma, inner conflicts, and strained interpersonal relationships were written in such a realistic and nuanced way that I honestly felt like I was suffering through their hardships right along with them.
I also really appreciated that even though they all hail from Provenci, there was still so much variety in their backstories and personal values and belief systems. This story will offer you some deliciously dark and duplicitous characters that you can love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love. And along the way, you may change your mind a time or two about which characters fall in which category. All of their character arcs were surprising in their own ways, and that only raised the stakes and kept me on my toes the entire way through.
There truly wasn’t a single POV that I didn’t find compelling, but I do want to give a special round of applause to the author for writing three of the most complex and compelling female characters in fantasy. Cavara, Savanta and Jinx absolutely stole the show for me and they have honestly raised the bar for what I look for in strong female characters. Also, while they are absolutely dragged through hell and back again, there isn’t a single point in the story where they are sexually assaulted or abused, and I can’t thank the author enough for that.
The world building was also utterly immersive and I loved how the author managed to maintain an air of mystery and intrigue, while also smoothly opening up the world as the characters progress in their personal journeys.
I do think the enemy forces of Tarraz could have been a bit more fleshed out, but at the same time I can’t complain too much because I was just completely enthralled by all the cutthroat political intrigue within the Provenci nation itself.
I also really liked how the fantastical elements became more apparent the further you get into the story, especially when the gods started to meddle. And even though there’s not really any magic in this world, the story still managed to feel utterly entrancing because of Doble’s utterly mesmerising prose. Some reviewers have called it dense, but I would humbly beg to disagree with that description.
The prose is vivid, evocative, and has a beautiful lyrical and ethereal quality to it that just sings to your soul. Already thrilling scenes only become more exhilarating and all the heightened emotions feel even more intense, which is exactly why this story hit so hard for me.
All I have left to say in the end is that this is the type of book that makes me go: “How in the world is this a debut?!”. And even more so because the author is the same age as I am (being only 21 years old), and I know for certain that I would not have it in me to write such an ambitious and excellent story. I devoured this book in 3 sittings and I am beyond desperate to see how this story continues. Doble is an exceptional storyteller, and I have no doubts that he is going to be an author to watch.
So, if you like the sound of a slow-burn yet action-packed multi-POV grimdark fantasy with complex characters, lyrical writing, emotionally engaging twists and turns, and a dash of (metaphysical) horror thrown in, then please do yourself a favour and check out The Fangs of War. It is perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Richard Nell, Michael Michel, R.J. Barker and Anthony Ryan. I truly can’t recommend it highly enough!