The world will change forever…
While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers–those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.
A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea, never expecting that her journey would end in chains.
Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.
When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the growing voice in his mind.
Together, these three will change the world–whether they intend to or not.
SPFBO Award Finalist for Best Fantasy Book 2020
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I read a digital copy of this book.
Voice of War is the first of the Threadlight trilogy, which takes place in the continent of Arasin. Within the story there are three very different main city locations:
- Alchea is a medieval style stone citadel ruled over by The Great Lord, Malachus, a beneficent leader, and his wife, the beautiful Lady Eleandra. Malachus has three High Generals, Henna, Jurius and Chrys, who is one of the main characters.
- Zedalum is a secret treetop city within the Fairenwild forest, inhabited by the fabled and reclusive Zeda people. This is the home of teenage sapphire threadweaver Laurel. All of Zedalum’s inhabitants are named after plants and their language is interspersed with phrases which refer to winds, gales and other natural phenomena. Zedalum was my favourite location – I loved the idea of people living up high among the trees, using sturdy wooden pathways and platforms, out of sight of anyone who might have been walking through the forest below. This is somewhere I would love to be able to visit – although some of the dangerous local wildlife, such as the spiderlike treelurks, would not be welcome during my visit.
- Cynosure is a desert hideout for anti-establishment rebels. Here we meet the final main character of this story, Alverax, who has recently been murdered when we meet him. This city is populated with miscreants and thieves and ruled over by the enormous Jelium Kirikai, a self-proclaimed King who brought to mind Jabba the Hutt, and Alabella Rune, a mysterious and ruthless woman who experiments on threadweavers, including Alverax. Jelium owns a racetrack and races the interesting reptilian species known as necrolytes – which leads to an exciting race sequence followed by some unexpected self-discovery by Alverax. The worldbuilding in this novel is clearly something that the author has spent a lot of time thinking about. Each of the locations is described with expert care and attention to detail, and is therefore easy to visualise:
The city was a sprawling metropolis, tucked away under a sandstone mountain in the southern deserts of Silkar overlooking the Altapecean Sea. Thick, portable tents and sprawling pavilions lined the lower division’s marketplace. Towering stone buildings were spread across the upper division, their styles stolen from modern Felian and Alchean architecture.
The magic system within this novel revolves around the colour of a person’s eyes. If they have brown eyes they are known as achromats and have no magical powers. Magic users with green eyes are known as emerald threadweavers and can walk up walls and ‘pull’ objects. Sapphire threadweavers have blue eyes and are able to ‘push’ off the ground and force themselves higher using their ability to see threads of light attached to everything within their vicinity. They can then land safely by regulating the force with which they are ‘pushing’ against the ground. There are also amber threadweavers with yellow eyes who are much rarer and can create the threads which emanate from all things, and obsidian threadweavers, also very rare, whose irises are black and who can cut through the threads.
There are people called bloodthieves in the city of Alchea, who try to kidnap threadweavers to take their blood and then sell it to rich achromats looking for a temporary experience of seeing the threads. At the beginning of the story the three High Generals are trying to put a stop to the elusive bloodthieves.
The characters and their relationships are everything in this book. They are all written very believably and all of their conversations and motivations make sense and never seem to be there simply as a plot device.
Chrys, a sapphire, and his wife Iriel, an emerald, have a baby boy near the beginning of the story and the colour of his eyes sparks all manner of problems for them, culminating in their dangerous and exciting escape to the Fairenwild forest in search of safety in the hidden city of Zedalum… if they can find it. It also leads Chrys to discover that everything he knows about his history is a lie and to discover more about his real heritage and family. Here his story arc meets that of Laurel, another main character who is a stir-crazy Zeda teenager, who he has previously met and saved from the bloodthieves who had kidnapped her:
His was a city of stone, hers was the city of wind.
Laurel, like most teens, longs for adventure and independence and I can see her becoming more important to this story as it develops further in books two and three. I hope she does as she was one of my favourite characters.
The story of Alverax, the third main character, seems separate from the rest of the events at first. He awakens naked in the desert, in a pit of dead bodies. He seems to have obsidian threadweaving powers, which he did not have before he died. He has been experimented on by the amber threadweaver, Alabella Rune and somehow she has given him these mysterious powers. He is often a source of amusement for the reader, for example he has to try and make his way back into the city, naked without drawing attention to himself and again as he learns to use his powers and ends up soaring up into the sky without any idea of how he will be able to get back down. Eventually his story arc meets up with the other two in an unexpected and heart-in-the-mouth clash of power.
There are also a number of more serious themes in Voice of War:
- The theme of family values is obviously very important to the author and can be seen throughout Chrys’s story arc. He protects his wife and child above all else and has a very close relationship with his mother. There are other types of families in the book as well, Laurel lives with her achromatic older brother and elderly grandfather, who is likely to be taken by the next gale and not survive. Her other beloved family member is Asher, a green chromawolf who she has bonded with and who is now the alpha male in a dangerous pack of chromawolves roaming the Fairenwild. Alverax also lives with his grandfather, a kindly old man, much nicer than Alverax’s deadbeat father.
- The theme of being able to change your destiny also comes up in this story. There is a clever wordplay in the dungeon of Endin Keep in Alchea. On the wall is written the word ‘Fortune’. While Jurius is torturing Pandan he explains to him:
It’s to remind you that the power is in your hands. With two strokes of a pen, any man can change torture into fortune.
- The theme of addiction and dependency rears its ugly head in that the more a threadweaver uses their magic they can make themselves threadsick, as Alverax discovers to his detriment. Laurel is almost constantly threadweaving and appears to be dependent on it – like any addiction, this is not good for her long term health:
She’d been using her threadweaving a lot over the past few months, and the world was starting to feel dull without it.
- Another theme in this story is that of mental health. There is more to Chrys than meets the eye. When he gets angry he hears a voice in his head, known as The Apogee, urging him to let it take control of him. The last time Chrys let it take over, during a battle, it caused a killing spree including some soldiers fighting on his side. Chrys is understandably scared by this voice and has told noone, fearing for his sanity. When he eventually unburdens his worries to his wife it is a huge relief to him. Will he be able to rein in The Apogee forever though?
I really enjoyed my time with these characters and the world they inhabited – I will definitely be picking up the sequel, Stones of Light soon, as I am eager to find out what happens next to this interesting cast and find out where the story will lead to next. I would recommend the series to all lovers of character driven fantasy.
About the Author
Zack Argyle lives just outside of Seattle, WA, USA, with his wife and two children. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and works full-time as a software engineer. He is the winner of the Indies Today Best Fantasy Award, and a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
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