Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
What to say about the Genre Week Challenge? It certainly was a challenge, as I am not usually a fan of high fantasy, and really had to set aside my personal preferences in order to do Obsidian Sun justice.
While on a hunting trip, Talac spellweaver Anan suddenly feels his mating bond snap, unheard of, unless the mate has died. No longer concerned with food, Anan rushes back to his encampment only to discover utter devastation. The velvet-skinned Talac’s encampment has been decimated, except for one spell spinner. The death and devastation is due to Varas slavers traveling through Talac with the single-minded goal of restocking their slaves. Terja and Anan perform a bloodweaving ceremony looking to the Twining Gods for their support in avenging the dead and rescuing the survivors.
Their journey to rescue those held captive takes them first to the deathspinners for thread, but their instructions are vague at best on how to harvest a deathspinners egg and secure the thread necessary for their quest’s success. The tapestry gives instructions, but they are confusing. Does it really say that the protective threads can be produced from the “little death” and how can a spinner and a weaver achieve the goal when a union of the two is forbidden?
With the fate of their people at stake, Terja and Anan must figure out how to harvest the deathspinner thread without losing their own lives, enabling Anan to weave the spells that they need to save the survivors of the many Talac clans destroyed by the Varas. Geir, leader of the Varas raiding party, fears that the Talac slaves won’t make it to the Varas auction block, and the ones too damaged will end up in the sex pits, because money is money, after all.
The question then becomes, how can Anan and Terja save the survivors when they are so greatly outnumbered?
So I picked a tough one, that’s for sure. With two glossaries, high emotional triggers, and quite a bit of violence, Obsidian Sun was as the blurb suggested, but far more intense. From a personal standpoint, anything to do with slavery is a no-go, and so not only was this a genre that is not the norm for me, but it also included that element that I avoid under normal circumstances.
The book had two storylines, that of Terja and Anan, the would-be saviors, as well as the slavers themselves and the Talac captives, mainly focussing on two Talacs, Jovan and Morea, who are survivors of the attack. By doing this, Keys effectively builds empathy for the protagonists, and the right amount of disdain and, dare I say, hatred for the Varas slavers and especially for Xain, a traitorous Talac Spellweaver.
I liked the dynamic between Anan and Terja, how they perceived each other at first meeting, and the growth they experienced as they worked together and got to know each other. Both were raised to believe that the velvet and non-velvet could not be together, and there is gradual growth and acceptance that their different appearances were not as important as originally thought. This shift in attitude reflects our own cultural views, which are admittedly better than they used to be 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
The Varas slavers were pretty much everything you could ask for in antagonists: cruel, heartless, and self-centered, but sometimes things are not as they at first appear. I am not saying that I ever liked the any of the Varas, but there was a time when I understood how someone would be motivated to act one way out of desperation versus simply being a sadistic individual to the core, inflicting pain and suffering for the sake of personal pleasure.
There were many words and names created for this world and I did appreciate that they were different, but still easy to pronounce, and Keys did describe the arid landscape and the deathspinner’s valley quite well. What I did wonder about was the how the two timelines managed to converge when Anan and Terja spent so much time preparing to confront the slavers and free their people, all the while, the slavers were travelling back to Varas. Another oddity was that at one point in Terja and Anan’s journey, they witnessed a series of events, but I am not sure how they themselves were not seen, and it just didn’t quite mesh for me.
The end result was an interesting, but slow read at first, that had situations that I felt mirrored our own society, both past and present. The pace and story also really picked up near the end and had me on the edge of my seat until the conclusion. For those reasons, I would not hesitate to recommend Obsidian Sun.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Genre Challenge Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of all 12 books released in September, plus an audiobook, from Less Than Three Press, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Genre Challenge Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.
It might be a little intense for me, but the world-building sounds good!
Had Keys not treated the “bad” stuff in a reasonable and sensitive way, I don’t know if I could have read the book without at least skimming the icky stuff. To be honest, the last half to third of the book is crazy good and needed the set up of the first half to make it all come together.
This does sound intriguing, so thanks for stepping outside your usual genre to provide this review. The idea of velvet and non-velvet peoples as well as spellcasting might have me read this!
I especially liked being able to see parallels between the different groups and characters in the story and our own past and present.
I did not know about Jon Keys or his work, but it sounds interesting. My problem is that I have to be in the right mood for this sort of dark fantasy, which normally takes a lot of effort and results in an intense reading, demanding both psychologically (you have to learn about a whole new world, new words, gods,etc… and that may be really tiresome depending on the world-building approach the writer goes for) and emotionally (as you say, slavery is not an easy topic). Anyway, I’m intrigued by Obsidian Sun, and I’ll add it to my TBR list.
Thank you for your great review, Jason.
You are right about it taking a while to get in the swing of things at the beginning, but when I did, it was worth it.
For a book that had several factors that you usually do not like yet you still gave it 4 stars and a recommendation, sounds like this would be a great read for those of us who love fantasy books. I have this on my TBR list and it is available from my local online public library. Your review gives me more impetus to read it.
Thanks for taking the time to provide us with your thoughts and opinions on Obsidian Sun!
It was a good exercise going outside of my comfort zone and I’m glad I did. It’s cool that your library has this book available to you, enjoy!
This sounds pretty interesting, I’m adding to my wishlist. Thanks for your review!
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, it is fun to interact with other readers!
I’ve read tons of mainstream fantasy, in fact fantasy introduced me to m/m. This sounds like something I would like a lot.
Thanks for the review. 🙂
I’m sure you will enjoy it!
Thanks for the review! I love fantasy and this is intriguing, but it might be a little intense for me. If I try it, I may have to wait on this one until I’m in the right mood.
Yeah, it had its moments but if I could get through them, I’m sure you can too! Enjoy!
Thanks for the review. I haven’t read a lot of fantasy, but this book sounds right up my alley. I’ll put it on my TBR list p.
(Doing my best Mr. Burns impersonation) Excellent!
Aww, I feel bad that you had to read something so far out of your comfort zone, not just the genre but the story’s elements. I love the idea of this week because I do think there are great books people are missing out on because they think a book is something based on its genre when it might be a great read with just a few elements that are different form their norm. I haven’t read anything by Jon Keys yet, but I do have this one to read, and I’m looking forward to it. High Fantasy is definitely one I don’t read as often as everything else, but I’ve read great ones, so it’s just a matter of reminding my brain that even though I’m not immediately attracted to it, I can still get a great read and end up loving it. For me, it’s great to be surprised by a story and get to see things form a new perspective, and that’s definitely something to be found in high fantasy. I’m glad this one worked for you in many ways even if it didn’t suddenly convert you to into the genre’s fan. Thanks for taking one for the team on this one. 🙂
I actually selected this book because I read Drawing The Devil by Keys (a cowboy / bullriding story) and was curious to see how he addressed a different genre. I am sure you will enjoy Obsidian Sun as much as I did!
Sounds like a book I would enjoy. Thank you for the review =)
AS English isn’t my first language, and because I at times have difficulty keeping regular modern day names apart when reading contemporary novels I think this is not for me, and I think language is one of the reasons I usually don’t read fantasy – it’s just too much work. But lots of kudos to you for going all out in this challenge, and I’m sure your review made the novel justice too. You make it sound interesting, just not my first choice …
Although this was a great review, the high fantasy genre is just not for me. I really appreciate the imagination an author must have to create entirely different worlds. But when a book has a glossary (or two), it’s just too much work for me.
Although I enjoyed the challenge, I agree with you wholeheartedly on all points.
What a complex story! I like High Fantasy but I do think one of the reasons I don’t read it that often is because sometimes I am just too lazy to really get into a book that requires following a lot of interwoven storylines and multiple mythos. But this is totally something I would pick up when in the mood for Fantasy and willing to devote the time to.
I’m torn. The review actually makes it sound pretty interesting. However, I’m not sure it’s not for me. Thanks for the review.