Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Faithless - Graham Austin-King

Title - Faithless
Author - Graham Austin-King

The temples of the Forgefather have fallen. The clerics and defenders that could once be found across the nine lands are no more. Priests huddle in the great temple, clinging to the echoes of their lost religion. But the Father has fallen silent. There are none who still hear his voice.

The mines of Aspiration lie far below the temple's marble halls. Slaves toil in the blackness, striving to earn their way into the church and the light. Wynn has been sold into this fate, traded for a handful of silver. In the depths of the mines, where none dare carry flame, he must meet his tally or die. But there are things that lurk in that darkness, and still darker things within the hearts of men.

When the souls bound to the great forge are released in a failed ritual, one novice flees down into the darkness of the mines. The soulwraiths know only hunger, the risen know only hate. In the blackest depths Kharios must seek a light to combat the darkness which descends.


We received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for our honest reviews

TW: Rape, child abuse, violence.

This book is stunning. Simply, truly stunning. From the incredible cover art that drew me in as soon as I saw it on Netgalley, to the rich world built organically by the story, Faithless was nothing less than a pleasure to read. I’m often suspicious of independently published books, but this has dispelled any hesitation I may have had previously, and you will probably see a lot more reviews of independent books from me from now on as a result.

Low fantasy is a genre more common now in the wake of books like A Song of Ice and Fire, and boy, am I glad for it. While I love high fantasy, being a Dungeons & Dragons addict for over 10 years now, I love the dark and oppressive tones of excellent low fantasy. Faithless has this in spades.

Before I go any further and lavish praise upon the incredibly well-developed world Graham Austin-King has created, I need to address the trigger warnings I mentioned at the beginning of this review. The child abuse and rape elements of this story are crucial, fundamentally important parts of the story. They do not shy from the subject, they are not kind, and they are a tough read when it happens. I think this is very important – it paints the issue in the ugly, revolting light that it should be seen in. I don’t think I’ve felt such intense hatred for a character in a book since I read Stephen King’s The Green Mile and wanted to drag Percy into Old Sparky myself.

Onto the world itself: if you want a lesson in organic worldbuilding where the core facts of the world are introduced naturally and without long passages explaining how things work, then please read Faithless. The author managed to create an entire, fleshed out religion, its deity, the history of the faith, a complex hierarchical structure and interconnected system from the lower city of Aspiration in the mines to the temple of the Forgefather. It certainly helps being given the view of a character freshly introduced to the mines in Wynn, one of the two main characters the story is told from.

On the cover of Faithless is a quote from a reviewer, who described the book as “claustrophobic”. It was one of the reasons I was drawn to read the book, because that particular word suggested that the imagery and tone of the book would make you feel as though you were really there – I was right. The descriptions of the scenery, characters and overall atmosphere made me smell the coal dust in the air, feel the spray of rock chips upon my face, and hear the faint murmur of Priests at prayer, all mixed with the ring of hammer on anvil (this book has not helped curb my fantasies of someday owning a medieval forge. On the one hand, I may as well just smoke 100 cigarettes a day, on the other… cool swords…).

I’ve avoided really speaking about the plot in this review, partly because I think the blurb is enough of a hook to give you an idea of what the story is about, but also because I found it so engaging that I wouldn’t really want to spoil any of the twists and turns, major or minor. In my experience, that’s often the highest praise someone can give a work of art, whether it’s a book, a TV show, a movie, a video game, or even a song. Just read it.

A note to Graham Austin-King: Please, for the love of the Forgefather, continue this series soon. I mean if you want to write a little handbook of how to Call the Flame and the rites of Embers then don’t let me stop you – my D&D games need an infusion of new lore.

Product details
Paperback, 404 pages
Publisher: Fallen Leaf Press (30 Jun. 2017)
Language: English
Author's Website:
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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