Book Review: REDEMPTION'S BLADE by Adrian Tchaikovsky

(Title: Redemption's Blade / Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky / Publisher: Solaris / Publication Date: July 31, 2018)

I first discovered British writer Adrian Tchaikovsky about ten years ago when I had the pleasure of stumbling across his excellent Fantasy series Shadows of the Apt.  It was such a fresh and well-written Fantasy series and as a result I immediately became a huge fan of his, purchasing everything that I could get my hands on as soon as it was released.  Another amazing read from him is his stand-alone Science-Fiction novel Children of Time.  

It was so good in fact that it won the Arthur C. Clarke award for best novel in 2016 and was one of my top reads for that year.  So when I saw that his brand new Fantasy title REDEMPTION'S BLADE (due to be published July 26, 2018) was available to request from the publisher, I immediately shot off a request to Solaris and was rewarded a day or two later when it showed up in my inbox.  The beautiful cover just made me want to dive in as soon as possible and so I did that very evening after the kids were asleep.  It was then that I was quickly transported into an amazingly complex world that I did not want to leave and upon turning the last page, I realized that Mr. Tchaikovsky had done it again in delivering a truly original and compelling story that hits all of the right literary chords.

REDEMPTION'S BLADE takes place in a bleak war-torn world where a great battle was fought a decade before between the demigod despot Kinslayer and his vile army and the simple people of Aethani.  The heroes of Aethani were led by their champion Celestaine of Forith who single-handedly killed the Kinslayer's  most powerful and destructive weapon, an enormous dragon that completely decimated every city in its path up to that point.  Celestaine's sword was forged with a powerful magic that enables it to cut through anything, no matter how solid or strong.  After destroying the Kinslayer's dragon beast, Celestaine realizes that the Kinslayer himself can also die and dispatches him soon after piercing his seemingly impenetrable armor with her sword and ultimately saving the forces of good against his treacherous ambitions.  

Fast forward ten years into the future and Celestaine is a reluctant hero, lauded for the brave actions she took all those years ago.  She also has the unenviable task of attempting to make peace between her people and the Yorughan warriors who were forced into service to assist the Kinslayer, but were later abandoned after he was vanquished.  Old prejudices run deep though and the level of distrust between the races who once battled each other to the death are extremely difficult to put aside.  There is also the lingering problem of the leftover monsters and minions from the war that are still scattered among the countryside, and many of them either don't know the war has ended or don't care and only wish to continue the killing because that is all they know.  

Now leaderless without the Kinslayer to direct them, they have become even more unpredictable and dangerous as they raid innocent towns and kill whatever gets in their way.  Celestaine finds herself with the daunting task of cleaning up the devastation that the Kinslayer left behind and enlists the help of two of her former enemies Heno and Nedlam, Yorughan warriors who fought on the side of the Kinslayer.  They soon embark on a quest to finish eradicating the monsters that still exist among the general populace and to also attempt to mend the fragile alliances that were strained during the height of the brutal war.  Celestaine is torn because she doesn't totally trust her new partners but realizes that she also needs them if she has any hope of mending a fractured land and bringing it back to some semblance of peace and prosperity.  

Along the way Celestaine and her cohorts come to grips with exactly the level of atrocities that the Kinslayer committed in the process of waging his bloody war.  Not only did he destroy physical structures and whole cities, but he also left a people who are now psychologically broken and destitute.  It is here where we see the true evil of what took place and it is a very hard pill for Celestaine to swallow.  No longer living in the isolated area of her own town, she is faced with a daunting task of healing what was broken in more ways than she could ever imagine.  The travelling company encounters many obstacles along the way and it is quite clear that although the Kinslayer may be gone, his legacy and influence remain within the vile creatures that are still fighting a war that is no longer being waged.  Whether or not Celestaine and her two Yorughan companions can survive the onslaught will depend on her wit and their brawn, for danger awaits around every corner in this desolate landscape where nothing is as it seems at first glance.

First off, I love the fact that the beginning of this book takes place after the war has already ended and we are thrown into the aftermath and what remains.  There is a sense of mystery involved and immediately as the reader I wanted to know all that took place, but Tchaikovsky does an excellent job of holding much of it back as a plot device to keep the reader engaged and guessing.  Some of the reviews of this book stated that they didn't like this aspect but I actually thought it was brilliantly done and is something that I have become used to in Adrian Tchaikovsky's writing.  If there is one thing that I simply cannot stand it is the overuse of info-dumps.  I believe in the "show, don't tell" philosophy because I just think that it works so much better and provides a much better reading experience.  The world-building in this book is just off the charts brilliant.  

Tchaikovsky really lets you feel how hopeless this war-torn land is through vivid imagery that he conveys with every word and paragraph.  I also enjoyed how Tchaikovsky displayed each character's personality through the dialogue.  Celestaine is obviously a hero who doesn't want all of the recognition but it is unavoidable.  She struggles with being the savior of her people when all she really wants is a return to normalcy and to help in any way she can to mend the damage done by the Kinslayer.  The two Yorughan warriors are also nicely portrayed as suspicious of Celestaine yet gradually accepting of her as they continue on their journey. The monsters are really evil, the battles are gloriously bloody, and the forgotten history of this world is only hinted at, making this a great setup for book number two.  

Adrian Tchaikovsky just made me appreciate his writing even more with this book as he deftly and smoothly makes the transition from Fantasy to Science-Fiction, and then back to Fantasy.  He writes in both genres with equally incredible skill to boot, which is no small feat.  I thoroughly enjoyed REDEMPTION'S BLADE by Adrian Tchaikovsky and eagerly am anticipating the next book in this series to find out what happens next.  Highly recommended Fantasy with a touch of Grimdark thrown in for good measure.

(My Rating: 9/10)