(Title: Legacy of the Brightwash / Author: Krystle Matar / Publisher: Self-Published / Publication Date: February 18, 2021 / Pages: 647)
Follow the law and you'll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?
Tashue's faith in the law is beginning to crack.
Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashue's son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He'd never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest of convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?
Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashue be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he's looking for?
There are good books and then there are books that leave a lasting impression that you can't shake no matter what. I mean, you literally can't avoid the intense emotions that seem to permeate every part of your being after finishing it. That is exactly the type of tome that book one in Krystle Matar's Tainted Dominion series, LEGACY OF THE BRIGHTWASH is.
The story begins ominously enough with a dead girl found washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, a river that runs through the city of Yaelsmuir in the Victorian/gaslamp setting of city states known as The Dominion. The girl is horribly mutilated with a strange numbered tattoo on the back of her neck. Where she could have come from and what caused her to be found there is a mystery. A mystery that becomes the central plot of this magnificently unputdownable book.
Tashue is one of those at the scene when the grisly discovery is made. As a Regulation Officer for the Regulation Authority, he is charged with making sure all of the laws are followed to the letter and those who are "tainted" with the Talent are accounted for and processed accordingly. Part of the process for those blessed (or cursed may be a more apt description) with the Talent is they must register and fall onto the radar of the Authority or be immediately sent to a maximum security facility known as the Rift, located on an island in the middle of the Brightwash. Think of it as a fantasy version of Alcatraz. Nobody knows entirely what takes place deep within the bowels of the Rift, but rumors of evil experiments and awful torture have been whispered on occasion.
Complicating things considerably for Tashue is the fact that his son Jason is one of those being kept in the Rift for the crime of refusing to register with the Regulation Authority. During Tashue's frequent visits he often attempts to convince his son to submit to registering because he is worried that one day Jason may end up a casualty of the rumors circulating about the facility.
As Tashue's thoughts increasingly drift back to the dead girl and her possible identity he is approached by someone who suggests that the girl found on the riverbank may not be an isolated case. Is someone or something mutilating children and tossing them into the Brightwash? And why does the ruling class of the city not seem to care about any of it? The same ruling class who look upon everyone else with utter contempt and view magic as something to be both cleansed and feared.
I try to avoid declarative statements when reviewing any book because I don't want to get in that habit and have it lose its effectiveness should I overdo it. But I really have never experienced a multifaceted book the likes of LEGACY OF THE BRIGHTWASH. This heartbreaking and powerful story affected me so viscerally. This is a book where the characters touch you so deeply, and as a result what happens to them creates a personal investment that not many books can produce. Right from the opening scene there was a connection between myself and Tashue. I felt the torment and conflict seep through his dialogue as it is obvious that he is torn between his dedication to the Regulation Authority and also his loyalty and love for his son Jason. How can the law be right if it is the same law that results in the imprisonment of his son for simply being born with a special gift?
The mystery of the dead tattooed girl is one that haunted me throughout this book, and still does now that I am finished. What is her identity? Who or what killed her? And what is the cryptic tattoo on the back of her neck? The investigation unfolds enticingly and I don't think I've read a 600+ page book as rapidly in my life because of it. Tashue's growing obsession with finding out the truth of her death was entirely equal to mine as the reader. I became so engrossed in the story that I felt actual hatred for the fat cat aristocracy. I so despised them that I almost forgot that they were fictional characters at times. Is there a better endorsement than that?
Another aspect that I really loved was the setting and world-building that Krystle Matar so deftly constructed. The Dominion, and Yaelsmuir in particular, is a very interesting gaslamp-era backdrop. These are some of my favorite types of settings in fantasy and it was a refreshing change from the usual epic and high fantasy worlds with dragons and warring kingdoms. Yes there is magic present and it is an important element of the story. The main driving force however, are the deeply fleshed-out yet flawed characters and the way in which they deal with their particular circumstances. The skillful complexity of Matar's character development is showcased beautifully throughout the book. There's also quite a bit of romance for those who enjoy some sauciness in their reads.
I'll conclude by saying that this book destroyed me in all of the best ways. It broke my heart, moved me to moments of intense anger but also hopefulness, and ultimately delivered one of the best stories I've ever read. If you skip this book you are really doing yourself a considerable disservice. Remarkable doesn't even begin to describe the depth and quality of Krystle Matar's LEGACY OF THE BRIGHTWASH. This should end up being THE must-read fantasy book of the year in my opinion. The official release date is February 18th, but you can preorder it on Amazon by clicking HERE.