Cameron Johnston is an author who writes exactly the types of books that I really enjoy. Heavy on the magic, violently action-packed, with plenty of thrills punctuated by characters who don't always behave the way you expect them to. Cameron's first book in his Age of Tyranny series The Traitor God was one of my favorite reads of 2018. It immediately grabbed my attention when I first read it and I've been eagerly anticipating book two so that I could get right back into this amazing world and story. Luckily for me I was able to procure an advance copy of GOD OF BROKEN THINGS from publisher Angry Robot (with a little help from Cameron himself) about three weeks ago and pretty much immersed myself in this story whenever I could during that time.
GOD OF BROKEN THINGS returns us to the setting of Setharis, a city that has been rendered a blasted wasteland after the culminating event known as Black Autumn from the first book. Legendary mage Edrin Walker barely survived that cataclysmic encounter and we find him beginning this story looking to settle a score with three traitorous mages who were mind-possessed hosts of the enemy Skallgrim's parasites. These mages contributed to the sorcerous attack that battered his homeland and killed so many of Setharis' citizens, even some of Edrin's closest friends. The Skallgrim are by no means off the hook though, as Edrin would love to eliminate that menace once and for all if given the chance. Turns out he may get his chance sooner than he thinks, as Edrin is called upon by the head of the Arcanum to confront a growing Skallgrim army gathering near the mountain passes far to the north of Setharis, just outside of the clan settlements. If the Skallgrim manage to succeed in penetrating inland past the clans, what is left of Setharis may not be able to withstand what could be this final nail in the coffin. A reluctant Edrin finds himself with no real choice but to cobble together a ragtag group of mercenaries and washed-up warriors to meet the threat head-on. As he and his companions travel north, they discover that the invading Skallgrim army is only half the battle they will face, as to even get to that ultimate battlefront they must first travel through treacherous mountain passes filled with all means of vile creatures hidden for ages within the isolation of the towering peaks. More than once during their journey, Edrin and his cohorts must battle with demonic beasts from a time long past and buried secrets that even the great mage himself had no inkling existed. But time is slowly running out for Setharis, as it faces enemies from both within and without. Can Edrin and his cohorts find the answers to saving the last remnants of Setharis and ultimately redeem what has been broken within himself in the process? Time and a lot of bloodshed may be the determining factor.
I had a hard time believing that Cameron Johnston could top the brilliant The Traitor God, but I am happy to say that he has eclipsed that book and then some! Where the first book was more of a slow-burn that focused on Edrin in somewhat of a detective role trying to uncover the identity of the murderer of his best friend, GOD OF BROKEN THINGS puts a boot on your throat from page one and never lets up. It's very rare that you get a second book that actually has even more action and thrills than the first, but this fits that bill. GOD OF BROKEN THINGS is so damned amazing that I rated it even higher than The Traitor God. Edrin is thrust into such a different role in this book, but it works just as well if not better. I found the overall story in this book so compelling as you have two main conflicts going on that have to be addressed. You have the invading hordes of Skallgrim and also the creatures living withing the mountainous clan hold regions that give an added threat to the main characters. Johnston has just gotten better and better as a storyteller and his characters continue to have incredible depth and personality that you don't see in many fantasy books these days. Yes, Edrin is still a wiseguy who believes he can get out of any situation, but he also has a vulnerability that makes him sympathetic and endearing. The secondary characters of Cillian and Eva are amazingly well-done and just lend to what is a fantastic narrative. And did I mention the world-building? All I can say is it is some of the best you will find. The ruined city of Setharis is described in such amazing detail as we get to see and feel the devastation that led to its fall and the subsequent aftermath. Yet we also get a sense that it may rise again one day and here is where Johnston hints at a bit of hope in the midst of enormous hopelessness. I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. It finishes the story beautifully. For those wishing to read this series my suggestion would be to start with book one The Traitor God. Now is a good time too, Since GOD OF BROKEN THINGS isn't due to be released until June 11th, 2019. TTG is a tremendous read in its own right though and essential to understanding the backstory. In closing, I want to reiterate how much I recommend GOD OF BROKEN THINGS and really this entire series as a whole. It is one of the best out there right now and a must-read for any SFF reader who loves magic, dark settings, evil villains, and incredible writing.