Book Review: Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards
Series: Book 2 of Bloodsounder’s Arc
Publisher: Night Shade (May 19, 2014)
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m what you would call a book juggler, meaning at any given time you’ll find me with multiple books in my currently-reading list. From the moment I started Veil of the Deserters though, I ignored everything else on my plate, reading nothing but this book until I finished all 500ish pages of it in two and a half days. It was the only thing I wanted to read.
As a sequel, this was everything I wanted and more. If Scourge of the Betrayer was the delicious appetizer, then Veil of the Deserters is most definitely the main course. It’s always great to read an amazing book only to discover the second one is even better, because while the first book was the perfect tease, piquing my interest and whetting my appetite for more, here’s where we really get into the meat of it.
In my review of the first book, I talked about an air of mystery surrounding the direction of the plot. The main protagonist and narrator is a bookish scribe named Arkamondos, hired by the formidable Captain Killcoin to accompany his band of Syldoon warriors on their journey to complete a mission. We have very little idea of what the Syldoon are up to, since Arki himself is not made privy to the details of their quest. Why these rough and tough soldiers require a scribe or in what capacity Arki would be employed is also unknown. But in Veil of the Deserters, we get our answers. We get them in spades.
Not only that, the world building is much more substantial. The author fleshes out the world and the characters in this second installment, providing a lot more background information and history. Arki’s hunger for knowledge and his natural curiosity as a scribe is a great means to facilitate this; as he grows more comfortable around his traveling companions, they tell their stories and reveal their lives to him. We find out that the old veteran Hewspear is a grandfather, estranged from his daughter-in-law after the death of his son. We also learn that Killcoin has a sister, the Memoridon witch Soffjian who makes her first appearance in this novel. The relationship between the siblings is complicated, and we’re also in a position to find out why. This book humanizes the Syldoon, showing the reader another side to these men, letting us see that they are more than just brutal warriors.
I continue to enjoy these characters. They fascinated me in the first book, and here they are even more developed. What amazes me is Salyard’s talent for making each and every one of them unique. Not every author can do this. I love reading dark fantasy featuring raw, gritty badass characters – but sometimes a book can end up with a whole bunch of characters with practically indistinguishable personalities on account of how raw, how gritty, how very badass they all equally are. Thankfully, the Bloodsounder’s Arc novels avoid this pitfall. I liked each of the Syldoon for different reasons. Every one of them can stand on their own, displaying their individual quirks and qualities which can even extend to their behaviors and the way they speak, from Killcoin’s emphatic “yes?” to Mulldoos’ penchant for coming up with hilariously obscene insults. Now’s also probably a good time to mention just how fantastic I think the dialogue is, well-written and sometimes injected with dark humor.
Arki himself is a delight to have as a narrator. He’s come a long way since the beginning of the first book, evolving with every minute he spends with the Syldoon, every violent battle he witnesses. He gradually learns to shed his old life to adapt to the new one with Captain Killcoin and his men, and it’s interesting to see how the emotions war within him even as he grows more loyal to the Syldoon and makes friends among them. He’s a stronger person in this book, both in the way he is written and in the manner he carries himself.
Seriously, why aren’t more people reading Jeff Salyards?! He’s outdone himself with this one. The book all but throws open the doors to the world of the Bloodsounder’s Arc, giving us better insight into its history, politics, religion and magic. The sights and sounds get more magnificent. The battles are bigger and better. The story is far deeper now that all the cards are on the table, and Salyards isn’t holding back anymore. All around, this is an excellent book, exceeding all my expectations for a sequel.