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The First Rule 

by Steven William Hannah

When the newly ordained Priestess of the Mind's Eye returns home to bury her mentor, she meets the seer, Temple. In his dreams of the near future, Temple sees her go to certain death facing a horror from the world below, a choir of the dead whose song enslaves the living.

Venalia's failure to protect the village is foretold, the village that has shunned her since childhood - but Venalia is sworn to an oath, bound by the first rule of the Priesthood to stand her ground against even the most hopeless of odds. Beset by corrupt leadership and an ungrateful flock, Venalia must decide what her life is really worth.

Perhaps it is better to die for something than to live for nothing.

The First Rule is a fantasy novel with elements of mystery, detective, progression and horror. It tells a story about redemption, forgiveness and duty in the face of overwhelming odds.

SPFBO9 – Our Reviews

Shaggy Shepherd Book Review

The First Rule is another book that gave me a lot of things to think about, some that I enjoyed and some that I didn’t. I felt like it had a bit of a rough beginning that I struggled to connect with but eventually, I really got into the flow of the story and was glad that I continued nonetheless.

Something that really stood out was the formatting. The line break and poems added emphasis and breaks that I didn’t always quite felt in tune with but found interesting to explore nevertheless. I always say I like to see new things in books and that applies here as well. It’s cool to see what you can do with those things.

Something else that was a little above my head at times was the magic system and the way characters pray to their deities. I really struggled picturing how that worked but I did like the limitations that were put on those characters when using magic. I like consequences to using magic and like that this makes the characters approach their challenges differently than an unlimited supply of magic would allow for.

I won’t give away what it is but this book also uses a specific magic ability that I am not a big fan of and makes it work for me! I don’t see this very often and really enjoyed that part. This ability often allows for too much convenience in stories but here it did the exact opposite several times, which was a really neat thing to see.

This book had a really interesting cast of characters that mostly had good character growth and transformation. They also provided some really funny moments sometimes. I especially enjoyed the emotional gravity and dissonance between the MC and her childhood nemesis.

I loved that the MC was so scared at times. It felt relatable because, holy crap, would those creatures terrify me. It’s bad enough to read about them. The author really knows how to come up with creepy creatures. He was really good in general with building this feeling of dread that you’re regularly reminded of throughout this book. I think the present tense was an interesting choice that helped this narrative as well.

I did get really annoyed with the decision-making of the MC sometimes. I was internally yelling at her multiple times while reading this book. I also felt that the high stakes action started really early. I was thinking it would be hard to keep that excitement at a high through to the end and was worried about that flame burning out too soon. Despite what I’m about to say in the next section, this provided me with more frustration while reading that I would’ve liked.

The structure of this book did end up very differently from what I expected. I really liked how the final problems were solved and how the characters used their strengths and weaknesses in their favor. Also, the mystery that I thought was so out of place ended up having such a satisfying resolution. Wow.

I know this review is a little all over the place but as I said, I have a lot of feelings about this book. While it is a cut today for SPFBO, I do think the author did some really interesting things within this book and I’m looking forward to trying more of their writing in the future.

Shaggy Shepherd Book Review

Proofreader ( SFINCS Founder. SPSFC/SPFBO Judge. Indie Reader.

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