*BOOK REVIEW* Faithless by 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.’
Faithless tells the story of Wynn, a farmer’s son who is ‘sold’ to a nearby temple where he becomes an ‘Aspirant’; someone who is bound to the mines below the temple, working day-to-day to mine the metals forged by the priests in the temple. Also there is the story of Kharios, a boy who has passed his ‘test’ and has advanced to become a novice but is then disgraced and is returned to the mines. Their stories intertwine and the secrets of the religion are revealed.
‘Faithless’ is a book of fantasy and religion and these are intertwined with the ‘world’ that is created by the author; and it’s a unique world. The story takes place in two places; Aspiration, and the Temple and this is rare for a fantasy novel. usually a lot of time is spent building a gigantic world however the author focuses on the characters that operate within their world.
Aspiration is a place of toil and darkness, populated by miners and their crews. Despite being an underground town, Aspiration has a social stratum, bottomed by the ‘Blackers’; those who mine coal, and is topped by the ‘Gilter’ crews; those who mine gold. Aspiration is controlled by the Sefin, a guy who rules with Martial Law. Those who do not make ‘Tally’ (their monthly quota) are sentenced to lashes, those who are subordinate or rebellious are sentenced to death. There are members of Aspiration who are not happy with the regime and so seek to rebel, leading to a nice side-story.
Within Aspiration there are many ‘crews’ and they are tasked with mining the different metals that are needed for use in the Temple. And it’s here that a lot of the story happens as the reader is introduced to a whole host of colourful characters. One of my favourite parts of the book is the dialogue between the crew members.
Faithless is kinda strange in so far as, for the first 70% of the book, very little actually happens in terms of real action, but I still found myself wanting to read more and that was because of the relationships created by the author. The style of writing also lends itself to easy reading, it did not get bogged down in page-long descriptions of a table or some other such pretentiousness, the conversations are direct and the descriptions are practical.
The characters in Faithless are built well, they each have a purpose and are not too many that you can’t remember who is who. The main character, Wynn, brings a sense of naivety to proceedings and is at stark contrast to the rest of the grizzled folk of Aspiration. This works especially well as a foundation for Wynn’s character as an aspirant and gives him a real low starting point to his character arc.
My favourite character was Father Ossan, a real piece of work who has alternative motives behind the boys he chooses to be his novices. Father Ossan is the key to finding the secrets of the lost religion, and to his own surprise, the darkness within the mines is revealed.
There is a reveal at the end of the book and the real fantasy element comes to the fore through this. Overall I enjoyed the book and think that the characters are very strong, also it was excellently written. The world created by the author is dark, claustrophobic and ultimately fitting with the theme. For me, the final third of the book was its weakest, the story seemed to wain slightly and when the souls are released, it smacked too much of cliché for me. The action was written well and horror sequences worked but I couldn’t help but feel it was anti-climactic.
Faithless is a good book written by a good author but has some flaws that hold it back from being great. 3.5/5
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of Faithless for review.
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