Book Review: ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE by Rob J. Hayes

(Title: Along the Razor's Edge / Author: Rob J. Hayes / Publisher: Self-Published / Publication Date: March 30, 2020)

I've been reading Rob J. Hayes' books for a couple of years now.  Whether it was his Ties That Bind series, Best Laid Plans series, It Takes a Thief series, or his stand-alone gems like City of Kings and Never Die, there seems to be one consistent theme.  I pretty much universally enjoy everything he writes, which is a testament to how talented he is as a storyteller.  So when I heard that he was releasing a brand new series called The War Eternal, and that the entire series will be published in 2020, well I couldn't contain my excitement.  Rob was gracious enough to provide me with an advance copy of the first book in the series, ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE in exchange for an honest review.  So here goes...

Eskara Helsene has endured more pain and misery in her young life than most her age.  Not too long after she learned to walk, she was trained in the art of Sourcery by the Orran Empire to use as a lethal weapon in its war against the hated Terrelans.  Eskara learned almost too well the dark skills of Sourcery, most-notably a brand called impomancy that brings with it the ability to summon murderous monsters from the Other World.  No child her age should have been educated in dark arts such as these.  Yet the Orrans selfishly use her budding talent as a mere tool to try and defeat the enemy.  The one thing that the Orran Empire didn't count on however, was losing that war that they had so arrogantly waged.

The story then fast forwards to Eskara, now a girl of 15, having been imprisoned and put to work in The Pit along with the many Orran prisoners of war captured by the Terrelans following their sweeping victory.  Cut off from her Sourcery, Eskara now toils every day digging 20 levels deep within this subterranean prison carved from the rocky landscape.  She's been underground for so long that she has almost forgotten what the sun and sky look like and all hope of escape seems a dismal pipe dream.  It also doesn't help that The Pit foreman Prig is a cruel bastard who takes the utmost pleasure in dispensing the most painful punishments imaginable for any scab who gets out of line or crosses him.  

During the time that Eskara has been imprisoned, whispers of hideous creatures located within some of the deepest levels and passages have been spoken about among the prisoners in The Pit.  Many believe that the digging that they have been tasked with doing every day is just pointless menial labor that is solely meant to break their spirit and will.  Yet there is also a small segment who think there is a specific reason for why they are digging.   When the Overseer of The Pit takes a special interest in Eskara, she immediately wonders what the motives behind it are.  Could her past history as a Sourcerer have anything to do with it? 

Eskara isn't really interested in helping her oppressors and when she feels a breath of wind against her cheek one day while standing in a certain area of The Pit, she sees this as the only opportunity to possibly escape her situation.  For where there is wind, there is air, and where there is air, there may be a crack, and where there is a crack there could be a WAY OUT.....

Yep, this book had me from the opening pages and just continued to keep me fixated throughout.  There are a number of things that made ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE an amazing read for me.  First, the way the story is relayed is absolutely brilliant.  The main character Eskara is the narrator of the story, but it is obvious that she is doing so as an older woman.  So you know going in that whatever takes place, she has survived and lived to tell the tale.  This didn't take away from my enjoyment though because there is still that mystery of what Eskara has become.  Who is the woman now telling the story of her past life?

Also, there are a number of flashbacks to Eskara's childhood and her intense training as a Sourcerer.  By the way, that spelling is intentional as the magic system involves the person using a "Source" material that is ingested to manifest whatever power they wish to unleash.  It's actually a very interesting and cool vehicle through which to dispense magic.  It's also a form of magic that requires that the Source be immediately purged from the body if the user is not sufficiently attuned to it, or else risk a horrible and excruciating death.  

Now let's get to the world-building which is where I believe this story really excels.  I love books like this where there is a captivating fantasy story but also an inherent mystery at its core.  There are a lot of questions that arise about the purpose of The Pit.  Are there really creatures lurking within its depths?   What is outside The Pit and is their a way to escape?  Why is The Overseer interested in Eskara?  I mean, I kept turning the pages wanting (no, needing!) to know the answers to all of these questions.  The world that Eskara finds herself in is a total mystery and Rob Hayes does an excellent job of keeping the reader invested in what is going on based on that extreme desire to find out what the heck is the meaning behind it all?!   He feeds you a little at a time and then lowers the boom in the final few chapters.

I just want to finish up by saying if you love great fantasy, then you should be reading Rob J. Hayes because he is one of the best in the business.  ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE is just a continuation in a long string of wonderful successes.  It intrigued me the way that very few books can.  The guy is just a master talent that I can't say enough good things about.  So pick up this book as soon as it becomes available on March 30th and enjoy some awesome storytelling.  You can preorder it now on Amazon and also on Rob's website.  If this book is any indication, then The War Eternal Series is going to be  a can't-miss epic fantasy adventure.  I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on book 2!

(My Rating: 9.5/10)

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