Book Review : The Bladed Faith

I received this book for free from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Bladed FaithThe Bladed Faith by David Dalglish
Published by Orbit on April 5th 2022
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic, Dark Fantasy, Action & Adventure
Pages: 512
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Source: Orbit Books

A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantle of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods in this epic fantasy from a USA Today bestselling author.
Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents—the king and queen—beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader's court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary "Vagrant"—an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill. 
But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance. 

I was drawn to The Bladed Faith because of the cool, if tried and true, concept of an usurped prince becoming an assassin in order to take back his throne and to save his people from oppression of an evil empire. I enjoyed this fun fantasy novel, with its relatively consistent fast-pacing, unique concepts, such as Gods living among their worshippers, and entertaining twists. I even read it within three sittings, but I found that much of The Bladed Faith left something to be desired—such as the reliance on telling versus showing, overbearingly dramatic dialogue, the lack of magic system building explanations and character complexity, as well as the constant need to suspend disbelief.


The Bladed Faith is written in third person and told from the multiple perspectives of the cast of characters. These characters come from all different kinds of backgrounds and serve varied purposes in the story. There’s Mari, a god-whisperer; her sister Stasia, a legendary warrior; Rayan, a former Paladin and worshiper of the goddess Lycaena; Cyrus, the usurped prince; Sinshei, the daughter of the Everlorn Emperor, and many, many more. Though I didn’t dislike any of the characters and even found them interesting, I sadly found that their complexity and development was limited to one or two defining character traits per character.


Despite this lack of elaborateness, I quickly grew invested in the world of The Bladed Faith. I am always a sucker for stories of evil empires trying to take over the world and of the resistances that rise to fight them. The Bladed Faith really tickled that fancy. Initially, I was astonished to learn that the gods of this world were actually alive and in corporeal forms among their worshippers and granting their most devout followers, known as Paladins, with magical powers. Their counterpart in the empire is the practically unkillable Paragons, who are blessed with their powers through ritual sacrifice. Likewise, other members of the Everlorn Empire seem to have different forms of powers based solely on their faith alone. Sadly, The Bladed Faith never really got into the nitty gritty of how this magic system worked, such as how all of their powers were granted, why certain people received them, what kind of training they needed to use their powers, and so on. Hopefully that is something that will be answered in future entries of the trilogy.


Similarly, I was also a little confused about the intricacies surrounding the nature of the gods. Though they are alive and roaming the world, they also seem to transcend their existence upon it. However, they can be wounded, killed, and enslaved (pretty easily too, might I add), by humans, or at least, I think so. I’m unclear if some of these murdered gods are actually dead or not. Whatever the case, I’m really entranced by this whole idea, and intrigued by whatever the heck is going on with the Everlorn Empire’s God-Incarnate Emperor and the vague, but potent, powers of his followers.


Even though I’m pretty interested in the obscure world-building and magical systems, from the very beginning of The Bladed Faith, I constantly had to suspend my disbelief, which quickly became a problem for me. For instance, the novel begins from the perspective of fourteen year old Cyrus, the heir to the island throne of Thanet, as he watches his homeland seized by the Everlorn Empire. Before his very eyes, his parents and his gods are murdered and his birthright usurped. While this is quite the climactic way to start a novel, it actually does quite the disservice to it.


There is no time spent on setting up young Cyrus’s normal life on Thanet, his character, his relationships with his family or anything other than what the young boy tells us of his life in between the atrocities he’s witnessing. As you can imagine, he’s more focused on watching the destruction in motion than telling us about his daily life or any childhood traumas. Regardless, this means that Cyrus’s loss of his parents, his throne, and his gods, hurts much less than it potentially could have. And later, we are told that Cyrus becomes a hostage, even though the rest of the royal family is effortlessly and instantly slaughtered, for two whole years.


But we are never shown what Cyrus’s two years as a hostage is like. We are told things here and there and told that Cyrus hates the Usurper King especially, but nothing is shown in flashbacks, which is a shame. This is something that separates The Bladed Faith from its counterparts in the genre, like A Song of Ice and Fire, which never fails to show its characters suffering or struggling in new and excruciating ways. If readers don’t enjoy these types of details of the character’s tribulations, they’ll be relieved. At any rate, this is the type of formative experience that shapes a character and his goals, but we don’t get to witness it, which is to the detriment of the character development of Cyrus and the connection readers feel to him.


Instead of showing Cyrus’s supposedly miserable life during this time and displaying maybe his own small rebellions against the Usurper King, The Bladed Faith skips two years ahead and shows Cyrus well-dressed and well-groomed at a public execution. The novel doesn’t show that he’s emaciated or bruised or anything of the sort, but later, this same protagonist tells us his life was bad as a hostage, in short and unexplicit references like:


“This was the man who had lorded over Cyrus for two horrid years of his life. This was the bearer of the handsome smile that promised him death should he misbehave.”


There’s never much detail behind what we are told and it feels like massive wasted potential for character development of both the protagonist and his antagonists. Without this development, I was less invested in Cyrus’s revenge than I could have been, as the reasons behind it didn’t feel entirely warranted. Though I should have been looking forward to the defeat of the Usurper King, he seemed more like a cardboard cutout of a villain than anything else and not at all like someone who had a huge effect on Cyrus. Even though the novel tells us Cyrus hated this figure, it seems more based on principle than actual abuse or suffering, as The Bladed Faith never demonstrates Cyrus’s time spent in captivity.


Likewise, another character tells religious stories and fables to children in order to keep their dying faith alive, but these fables or stories aren’t actually shared with the reader. This would have been the perfect opportunity to share more of the actual beliefs of these mysterious religions and how the existence of the gods actually worked. Not to mention that further explanation and depiction of lore would be right at home in the genre where songs and stories are typically shared, but instead we are merely informed the character is telling stories to keep his faith alive amongst the people.


Similarly, I couldn’t believe that Cyrus, after deciding to become an assassin of sorts in a quest for revenge, only takes two years of intense training to become an amazing swordsman. Apparently, it only takes a few years to put him on the level of some of the greatest fighters in the empire and the resistance. I truly couldn’t believe that he achieved this level of talent in this almost comically short amount of time. I’d say the character needed at bare minimum five years of training to become this skilled at sword-fighting alone, but surely with a character so young, ten years of training could have been spared for the future king. Perhaps even more surprising, Cyrus was never taught anything else during these incredibly long training montages, like hand-to-hand combat in case he was disarmed, or how to use different types of weapons, or anything of the sort. This seems like a no-brainer to me and something that would help to ensure the survival of the sole surviving member of the royal family.


Instead, all we ever really see is Cyrus running laps and getting his butt kicked by his “master” during combat training with wooden swords. I was also shocked that the boy is never remotely tutored to become a leader or a future king or how to deal with politics. Sure, The Bladed Faith tells us that Cyrus reads some books on world history and such, but that doesn’t seem like nearly enough for the role he’s intended to take. The short time span dedicated to Cyrus’s training and the lack of realistic training made Cyrus’s rise as the avenging vigilante, called Vagrant, feel really unearned and unbelievable to me.


Later, when Cyrus has to schmooze with people at a fundraiser, he has absolutely no idea how to deal with court intrigue, which I also found unbelievable for someone who grew up in a palace, at court, and lived there for fourteen years. How did this heir to the throne not have any kind of education fit for a future king? I wish The Bladed Faith had Cyrus as the second son or something to explain this inconceivably glaring lack of preparation and education. I also couldn’t believe that Cyrus kept his identity a secret from these same wealthy patrons for only mere months after his initial appearance as Vagrant. I felt like he should have kept that he was the Prince secret for at least an entire novel and that the reveal should have been a much bigger deal and made a major impact on the story, but it doesn’t.


On a more surface-level, I really did not care for The Bladed Faith’s flare for the melodramatic either. I am reminded all too well of Harrison Ford’s classic saying in regards to Star Wars’s script, “you can write these lines, but you can’t say them.” If you’re a reader who lives for these kinds of over-the-top statements and grandstanding gestures, you’ll really like The Bladed Faith. But I personally found myself cringing internally a lot at the things characters unironically say. I find it completely unfathomable that anyone would actually think these grandiose statements in the first place, let alone actually utter them aloud. For example:


“Today, I craft you your weapons, Cyrus. They will be a part of me, and they will become a part of you. You will know them like you known your own fingers. They will connect to you as your own bones. Watch silently, young man. I ask only that you bear witness to the art, so you might appreciate its beauty when I gift you these blades.”


“We have coddled the people of Thanet long enough. These spoiled children shall faithfully kneel in servitude, one way or another. If they reject our loving embrace, then we shall give them the clenched fist instead.”


“The wise can rebuild a better world from the ashes, but for there to be ashes, we must first burn down the old and the rotten. I say we get to burning.”


In fact, I completely missed the setup of one of The Bladed Faith’s twists because it was hidden behind this ostentatious type of speaking. When all of the text is filled with so much hyperbole and grandstanding it’s hard to tell when something being referenced should be taken at face value. On the other hand, when author Dalglish keeps his dialogue simpler, it flows, feels much more natural, and the heart behind his work really shines. To my surprise, I even found myself brought to tears by one of these quieter, simpler moments between two characters.


Despite its flaws, I really enjoyed The Bladed Faith and am eager to read the next book in the series. I would say this is the perfect read for fans of the fantasy genre that just want to read something light and fun. I was really glad to read this novel after my last read, The Goblin Emperor, which was muddled with difficult terms and a confusing cast of characters. There’s not a whole lot of depth to the world-building, magic-systems, and characters in The Bladed Faith, but the story is easy to get invested in, entertaining, fast-paced, and filled with plenty of action.


Book Review : The Bladed Faith - Blogging with Dragons

Posted January 25, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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