Death’s Heretic

If you’re looking for a fun fantasy tale that spans across several planes, features mystical creatures and stars a servant of the Lady of Graves sent to find a lost soul, then look no further. With delicious prose and wonderfully imaginative descriptions, James L. Sutter is able to create vivid worlds and intriguing characters. The search for a lost soul leads the main characters from the desert city of Lamasara to the Boneyard where the rivers of dead spirits are judged for their final resting places. It’s an enjoyable ride as the twists and turns keeps readers on their toes.

The title of the story is a fittle label for the main character. Salim used to be a priest-hunter, a devout atheist beholden to no gods and firmly set in the freedom of his own decisions. Yet now he is a servant of the Lady of Graves, the goddess of death. In contrast to the beliefs he once stood for, he now serves a new purpose: to hunt down those who try to cheat death. The¬†disparity of this position makes him a reluctant follower. He knows the gods exist, and he’s indebted to serve Pharasma, but it’s not a happy arrangement and it goes against his core beliefs.

Through the story, readers find out more about Salim’s past, catch a glimpse of the fascinating worlds of the afterlife, and learn the fate of one unlucky, ambitious merchant. Lord Anvanory sought to extend his life with the highly sought after sun orchid elixir, but instead found himself dead and his soul held for ransom. His daughter Neila is dead set on finding those responsible, and freeing her father’s soul. With Salim’s help, she serves as the supporting character of the story. In a way, she’s also the representative of the reader. As they travel the planes in search of those responsible, her wide eyed wonderment and inquisitiveness at all the strange sights serves the curiosity of the reader. It’s a good setup that allows Salim to explain the things around them in a sensible, natural way. The other advantage of Neila’s presence in the story is the unique viewpoint of her character. Between her and Salim, there is a distinct division between their personalities that reminds readers that these are very different people and not just a singular mob of one projected viewpoint. In one instance Salim sees a machine, but Neila sees an adorable creature. The breaks in viewpoint between the characters adds a great element to the story.

One of the strongest elements of the story is Sutter’s ability to weave in his wild imagination into a fully believable and immersive world. Whether it’s the simple crypts of a church or the clockwork complexity of a city devoted to the gods of order, the story brings these locations to life. Without getting lost in overly intricate explanations, Sutter is able to succinctly describe the environments. Yet he does so without shortcutting any other elements of the story. There’s still rich characterization, fun plotting, and some intense, well written fight scenes. It’s a great read on all fronts.

While there are a lot of fantasy books out there, sometimes one stands out as a worthwhile read. Death’s Heretic is certainly worth checking out. It steps away from some of the classical tropes of goblins and orcs, zeroes in on the realms of death and the higher planes of reality, and explores the relationships of priests and the servants of these religions. There’s lots of action, character building and exploration. With great prose and storytelling, Death’s Heretic is a great read. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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