A drug addict who hunts sorcerers down by tracking their magick, the most renowned swordsman no one has ever heard of, and a thieving magick-wielding woman hellbent on revenge collide during a last ditch effort to stop an insane superhuman serial killer from making himself a god.
The Render Tracers always say magick users deserve to burn. Aren couldn’t agree more, Keluwen would beg to differ, and Corrin couldn’t care less either way.
In a world where most people use swords for protection, Aren uses tools that let him see what no one else can see, and he takes advantage of loopholes that can undo magick in order to stop the deadliest people in the world. He is a Render Tracer, relentlessly pursuing rogue sorcerers who bend the laws of physics to steal, assault, and kill. But his next hunt will lead him to question his entire life, plunging him into a world where he can’t trust anyone, not even his own eyes.
When Keluwen finally escaped her fourthparents’ home and set out on her own to become a thief, she never thought she would one day be killing her own kind. She honed her magick on the streets, haunted by her past, hunted by Render Tracers, and feared by a society that hates what she is. Now she joins a crew of outcast magicians on a path of vengeance as they race to stop an insane sorcerer who has unlocked the source of all magick and is trying to use it to make himself a god.
Corrin is a sword fighter first, a drinker second, and a…well, there must be something else he is good at. He’ll think of it if you give him enough time. He is a rogue for hire, and he has no special powers of any kind. The most magick he has ever done is piss into the wind without getting any on himself. He is terrible at staying out of trouble, and someone always seems to be chasing him. When he gets caught up in a multi-kingdom manhunt, he finds himself having to care about other people for a change, and he’s not happy about it.
They are about to collide on the trail of a man who is impossible to catch, who is on the verge of plunging the world into ruin, and who can turn loyal people into traitors in a single conversation. They must struggle against their own obsessions, their fears, ancient prophecies, and each other. They will each have to balance the people they love against their missions, and struggle to avoid becoming the very thing they are trying to stop.
Release date December 7th 2021
I read a digital arc given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Thomas!
We Break Immortals is a dark epic fantasy with a very large cast of characters, which made things confusing in the beginning. Once I got oriented, however, it was a highly enjoyable read with a very detailed and carefully explained magic (or magick) system.
Magick use results in traces or threads being left behind. They can be seen by a particular type of detective or Render Tracer, known as a ‘glasseye’ using a piece of equipment called a ‘Jecker Monocle’. It took a few instances of this happening for me to really understand what was going on but once I did I thought it was a fantastically imaginative system. Having these methods of tracing a rogue magick user explained in scientific detail by one of the main characters, Aren, who is a glasseye, really helped make it clear. Each trace holds elements of its user which allows him to be identified and his location pinpointed. It is a fantasy technique which is similar to modern day forensics and fingerprinting techniques:
“Residuals,” he finally managed. “The leftover traces of altered reality. Afterglow.”
“The bending of light?”
“That’s only a part of it,” he said. “When you first step into a fresh scene, that is only what you look for at the start, to confirm the presence of recent magick. Visible cues—steam, light-bending, tunnel vision, vapor trails, and sometimes even aural afterglow that can be seen by the naked eye.”
In addition to his Jecker monocle, Aren has another specialized tool of the trade – an Oscillatrix. This is a piece of equipment which spins in the presence of afterglow, alerting the glasseye to the fact that magick has been recently used.
Aren is a complex character. In addition to being a glasseye, he is a drug addict; a user of Malagayne which dulls his senses. At the beginning of the story he misses his recently dead mentor Sarker, but there is no time for him to really mourn if he is to catch the powerful sorcerer he is tracking. He is relentless and determined in following his traces. Aren was written very cleverly with his attempts to hide his sly use of the Malagayne and his associated guilty conscience. He is also a knowledgeable historian which comes in very useful in the second half of the book, when he joins forces with Redevir as a treasure hunter searching for the mythical artifacts known as the Sephors. This scavenger hunt with its riddle-like clues was highly entertaining.
Another of the main characters is Keluwen. She was my favourite – a feisty magick user set on revenge. She has a brutal, sarcastic wit that doesn’t pull any punches. She is married to her crew’s leader, Orrinas, but will not stand for him calling her wife or for being treated any less importantly than any of the other crew members. It so happens that Keluwen and her crew are chasing the same bad guy as Aren. At one point she takes part in a honey trap situation to attempt to capture him and has to act as a young girl, which is his preference. There follows an amazing sequence where nine bad guys have their shoes stuck to the floor using friction magick. They are then contained in a cube of darkness with pressure compressing their bodies – but the powerful black-eyed man still manages to escape. Keluwen is understandably terrified and very brave in what could have easily turned into a nightmare scenario.
The third main character is the “sword fighter of ineffable talent”, Corrin the Magnificent. He is a roguish hero, but has a moral compass when it comes to saving his people, or children, and is full of bravery and derring-do. He is also incredibly hard to kill and has an almost sixth sense which tells him when danger is on the cards. Although he loves the pleasures of life, he is able to prioritize whenever there is a need to fight or flee.
There are some really imaginative worldbuilding ideas in this book. One of my favourites was a scene where Keluwen, Orrinas and the rest of their team travel by bubble over a mountain pass to avoid the hostile troops on the ground. What a fantastic idea:
Orrinas rendered his sphere around his group. It had been half a lifetime since she had been inside a totally sealed blank sphere. The sound of the outside world vanished. She could hear her own heartbeat, in her ears. She felt dizzy in the silence. It made it worse that she could not see the sphere at all. There was no shine or reflection as if it was glass. It was a purely invisible barrier.
The author also has a well-honed talent for describing the weird and wonderful side characters peppered throughout his story, always with a dose of wry humour:
A wiry old man appeared in the hallway opposite them. His face was drooped and shrunken with age, the skin of his forehead tightly wrinkled like a desiccated fruit. A wispy white beard brushed against his chest. He wore an ancient aba robe, faded by decades of wearing, pale blue, as thin as a single hair.
Building tension is another of Riley’s skills. There are many scenes where the tension increases masterfully as the crew are being chased, or driven into battle, or simply know they will be in the vicinity of magick users who could kill them with a thought. Many of these scenes had me on the edge of my seat. There is also a wealth of sexual tension building up between Aren and the princess Eriana throughout their journey to find the Sephors. Will they? Won’t they? I’m not going to tell…
All in all, We Break Immortals is a fabulous, fast-paced debut novel with a lot to love. Endearing characters you can become invested in, exciting fight scenes, well-described scenery you can easily visualise, magick users, detective work, riddles, a touch of romance, an evil villain – what more could you ask for? A sequel, that’s what!
I recommend this book to all readers of dark epic fantasy who are not squeamish or faint-hearted! Be warned if you are not a fan of bloodshed, crudeness or lewdness as there is a fair amount of killing and lusty behaviour. I can’t wait to see where Thomas Howard Riley takes us next!
About the Author
Thomas Howard Riley currently resides in a secluded grotto in the wasteland metropolis, where he reads ancient books, plays ancient games, watches ancient movies, jams on ancient guitars, and writes furiously day and night. He sometimes appears on clear nights when the moon is gibbous, and he has often been seen in the presence of cats.
He always wanted to make up his own worlds, tell his own stories, invent his own people, honor the truths of life, and explore both the light and the darkness of human nature. With a few swords thrown in for good measure.
And some magick. Awesome magick.
He can be found digitally at THOMASHOWARDRILEY.COM
On Twitter he is @ornithopteryx, where he is sometimes funny, always clever, and never mean.
2 thoughts on “ARC Review: We Break Immortals (The Advent Lumina Cycle Book 1) by Thomas Howard Riley”
Pingback: We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley | Sue's Musings
Pingback: The Coffee Book Tag | Sue's Musings