(Five Stars) The author(s) of The Sacred Band create a vibrant, real world that sweeps you into its grasp and drags you along, kicking and screaming into a dark world where the only wrong action is inaction—and that just gets you killed (or worse)—and dishonor is measured by the severing of bonds formed between warriors, destined to die.
Whether it is the numerous combat sequences, or the on-going, heartrending conflict between the various characters, their Gods and their world, this book is filled with such immediate need that you are compelled to react to their circumstances. In your mind, you cannot help but take up sword and spear, call out commands or warnings or lamentations and participate as one of the Band in the story itself. Like an intensely contested sporting event, I found it so riveting that I was not above screaming at the characters when their decisions took them into harm’s way and mumbling curses to myself when they made self-serving decisions that threatened both their comrades, and the precarious balance necessary for the survival of the world itself. Anxiety levels were often high, my breathing and heart rate impacted as conflict reached crescendo over and over again, climbing higher each time until its climax when I could finally relax—or so I thought.
The characters in the book have deep flaws, needs, desires and vices that feel real, and force the reader to relate to them on a human level. Much as we often search for the underlying reasons for that may explain why soldiers may commit terrible acts in war, the reader finds him/herself seeking to understand the hard, and often violently unforgiving decisions made by the Riddler as he leads the Band on and challenges fate itself. We find ourselves forgiving him those brutal decisions—for we know hard men (and women) are needed in hard times.
We are propelled alongside the warriors of the Band as their brothers are killed, their vows challenged, their hearts corrupted—and we feel it deeply, we understand it at a level deeper than most novels even aspire to reach—much less actually reach. There is more to these warriors than surface crust, more to them than shallow characterizations of heroic figures. The author(s) is a master of building the relationship between reader and character and fulfills the implicit contract with the reader from the opening scene: you will care about these characters, you will care about their fight, and you will care about their ability to overcome all of the forces arrayed against them, even if you wouldn’t hand them a glass of water in the event they were parched near to death.
I recommend everyone read this book—everyone, that is, that wants to be part of the story, experience the tribulations and victories of its characters and wind up with more personal insight than you could hope to find in a novel, AND the ability to continue on with yet another story about the Band.
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Visit Author Page here.
As always, I’ll keep the lantern lit.