It’s Book Review Wednesday, the day I get to talk about the latest book I’ve read and enjoyed. I think you’ll love the new one: a fantasy novel with just a hint of steampunk thrown in for good measure.

Highlords of Phaer

Born a slave, descended of kings, Jareen Velarius just wants to provide the best life he can for his family, but Eidolan is a realm that challenges even the most stalwart of souls.  Caught between his masters (the highborn and sorcerer Highlords) and those brave or foolish enough to strike against them, Jareen struggles to reconcile his role as a dutiful slave and a man who desires to be free, to return his people to a life lost more than a millennia ago.

Auberon Victore, sorcerer, alchemist, son of Overlord Alexis Victore, and Jareen’s master, creates an alchemic compound he is certain will change the world, he just does not know how. Only Jareen sees it for the weapon that could break the sorcerers’ iron grasp. It will change the world, but not in the way his master desires.

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Across the Tempest Sea, a mighty storm has raged for a thousand years, keeping a terrible, long-forgotten enemy at bay. An enemy whose cruelty knows no bounds, only the perpetual storm and their fear of the sorcerer Highlords keeps the necrophages from returning to Eidolan and cloaking the empire in death and darkness. But the tempest is waning, and the dissidents’ freedom may well come at the cost of their total destruction.

My Review: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for an honest review, and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much as I did. I found myself pleasantly surprised.

The main character (Jareen) starts out without much depth to him, but with just enough hint of something simmering beneath his servile façade. When his world comes crumbling down around him, his response is to strike back—a sentiment I found believable and deepened the character greatly.

The world was rich, well-described, and drew me in. I found myself turning the pages without hesitation, as I wanted to find out what came next. The antagonist was a well-written character, and the story overall was clever, with great plot twists and turns.

It did feel a bit “all over the place” at times, and there were a few parts that lagged—I had to force myself to keep reading, rather than being drawn into the story. However, overall a VERY good book, one I’d highly recommend to any fantasy reader.

Here’s a Taste:

Jareen pulled an arrow straightener from his pocket, giving testament to how frequently Auberon ordered such corrective action. The device was a simple wooden slat the length of a man’s hand and two fingers in width. A hole was bored through each end, the larger one to best accommodate the digits of a man, the smaller for most women—or a child—as the case may be. It was the most effective and humane way Jareen had found to complete the gruesome task.

He held out his palm, gripped the fearful woman’s shaking hand when she laid it in his, and threaded her finger into the apparatus. Jareen caught the woman’s attention and held her gaze with his eyes.

“What is your name?” he asked.

Her frightened countenance broke into a wan smile and she released a nervous giggle. “Grace. Grace Parkin, and I must be going mad to be laughing now.”

Jareen smiled at her, an effect lost behind his mask. “Sometimes the irony in such an absurd situation is so great that, when all other emotion has been exhausted, there is simply nothing more fitting left to do. It is something I have experienced many times, and I do not yet consider myself mad.”

Jareen flexed his wrist and snapped the first bone in her little finger between the joints. Grace’s eyes flashed wide as she cried out. Her knees buckled but she managed to stay upright with the help of Jareen’s supporting hands.

He leaned close and whispered in her ear as he looped the arrow straightener onto her ring finger. “I am going to bend the finger with the knuckle. I need you to act out just as you did a moment ago. Auberon has spies throughout the palace and he rewards those who report violations of his will. Do you understand?”

Grace swallowed and nodded.

Using his body to block Grace’s hand from the prying eyes of the other servants, he rotated it ninety degrees and mimicked the fracturing motion, but this time, allowing the finger to move naturally with the joint.

Grace wailed a bit louder and dropped even heavier than before, her performance not entirely an act as every movement shot pain through her broken finger. Jareen kept her from falling and helped her stand back up.

“Masterfully done.” He tore several strips from a towel and began bandaging Grace’s two fingers together, using the arrow straightener as a splint. “Never forget that both fingers are broken and act accordingly.”

Grace bobbed her head. “I will. Thank you, sah.”

“I am not a sah. I am a slave just as you are.” Tying off the wrapping, he held up his injured arm. “You can begin practicing by bandaging my wound.”

Grace washed out the cut and wrapped it in the remaining strips of linen Jareen had torn. She was grateful for his making extra as she was unsure if she could have managed on her own. She tied off the bandage and stroked his hand before releasing his arm. Jareen was a married man, but he was not immune to the sensual touch of such a young and attractive woman.

“Do your best to stay out of Sah Auberon’s sight. He has likely already forgotten about you, but it is best to avoid his attention whenever possible.”

“Thank you again for your kindness.”

Jareen chuckled. “What a world we live in where breaking just a single bone is considered a kindness.”

About the Author:

Brock Deskins was born in a small town located in rural Oregon. At age twenty, he joined the army and served as an M1A1 tank crewman, dental specialist, and computer analyst. While in the military, he became an accomplished traveler, husband, and father of three wonderful children. His military career completed, attended college to brush up on his skills as a computer analyst and gain new skills as a writer. Brock received his degree in computer networking and is now devoting his full time and limited attention span to writing.

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