Rating: 3.75 stars
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Malek the Destroyer earned his name in the gladiator pits of Dis. A city without light and filled with the desperate and downtrodden, Dis is an afterthought to other cities of the planet. But for Malek, it’s home and he wants more for his people than poverty and a life covered in soot. He also understands that Dis won’t remain an afterthought for long as the Senate and its allied cities are growing hungry for power. His only option is ally himself with Aerix, a city of light and ethereal beings who have never been conquered. Aerix has long been isolated, preferring to ignore the world as long as they are left alone. But Soran, the leader of Aerix is aware the Senate is at his gate. Joining with a barbarian and his horde seems distasteful to say the least, but to protect his people, Soran will make a deal with the devil.
Malek knows the only answer is war. He isn’t afraid of sacrifice and has spent most of his life amongst the blood and chaos of the arena. His feelings for Soran are unexpected and unwelcome, yet neither man can resist their attraction to the other. Malek was ready to die for his beliefs, but the risk of losing Soran might be a price he is unwilling to pay.
Salvation, the first in a new duology, was something of a conundrum to review. On the one hand, it’s a jumbled mess of info dumps, awkward relationships, and uneven plots. On the other hand, it’s a pretty darn enjoyable to read. Let’s start with the good stuff. Both Soran and Malek are compelling characters and while we aren’t given a truly full picture of either, we have enough to understand that both are strong, prideful, and determined. They usually do well together, though most of their courtship seems to involve attacking one another on a regular basis. Their romance is less about warmth and more about two brutal men breaking the other down. So there isn’t much by way of tenderness, but you don’t expect it. There is also a climatic battle scene in the last third of the book that is well written and truly engaging. It is fast paced and described in such a way that the reader is placed in the center of the action. This was easily the highlight of the book.
Now for the downsides. From page one we are left stumbling to catch up with a story that already seems in progress. There are landfills of information early on, but they often fail to clarify confusing points or just repeat previously given details. As a reader I was pretty adrift for the first few chapters and there were always gaps where I felt I didn’t quite know what was happening. There are secondary scenes that are odd or jarring and don’t seem to fit with the wider story. They tend to distract from the rest of the plot and while the author does a decent job of bringing it all together by the end, it reads like a chaotic mess for the rest of the time. While I enjoy Malek and Soran together, there is a jaggedness to their relationship that doesn’t always work. Because they are so vicious with one another most of the time, when they attempt softness it comes off as uneven and forced. It’s almost like the author couldn’t quite decide what kind of relationship that Soran and Malek should actually have. This doesn’t happen often and their partnership flows most of the time.
Salvation is rough mix of action, strong characters, a wobbly plot, and an uneven tone. For all its issues, I still enjoyed the book. I think anyone who enjoys science fiction/fantasy will probably have some fun here. I will throw out a quick caution for very mild blood play and a bit of wound fetishizing. Nothing major, but if that’s a hard line for you, considered yourself warned.