G R Matthews
Review: The Heresy Within
Rob Hayes has created in this book, the first of a trilogy, an intriguing world that is as grim and dark as any the current ‘master’ of Grimdark could imagine. The language is plain and the action brutal. It really should come with 18 certificate and strongly worded warning on the front, probably in big red letters.
The basic premise of the book, and world, appears to be based around a combination of the spanish inquisition and the witch hunts of England in the 17th Century. So, whilst there are the expected swords and sorcery there is also the advent and use of gunpowder. It makes for an exciting world.
The plot follows the familiar three act structure; the introduction to the characters, the action scenes and the resolution. It works, that’s why the structure is familiar and used by authors the world over. Rob Hayes gives us three viewpoints to follow throughout the book. Interestingly, the three characters are very different and yet co-exist within the same dynamic. This leads to nice touches of character conflict throughout. It also, in this dark and morally ambiguous world, gives you a chance to choose your hero.
The first character, Thanquil is the witch hunter / priest or Arbiter as they are called in this world. Trained to spot and root out the darkness in people’s souls he is able to wield the sword with skill and deploy magic without fear. The magic system is based around runes and chants. There is a consistency within this; runes create external effects (explosions, summonings) and chants enhance the internal aspects (strength and speed). The Arbiter is driven to fulfil his quest, one he is not sure he wants to be on but, succeed or fail, it could mean his death.
Our second ‘hero’ is the crook and killer, Black Thorn. He is known the world over for murdering Arbiters which makes him, he believes, a marked man to be hunted down by the inquisition. In the lawless wilds he joins a band of similar brigands and thieves, taking on contracts from even bigger crooks to make a living. Each member of this band is a distinct, fleshed out character in their own right. When Thanquil and the Black Thorn meet, there is bound to be fireworks.
Lastly, and my personal favourite, is Jezzet, a blademaster. Trained by a sadistic master she has scars across her body and does her best to survive in the dangerous, patriarchal society of the wilds. She is calculating and cold, has an eye for a chance but is driven to survive using either her sword or her body - and though this could have been handled with a sordid eye the point of view that Rob Hayes gives us makes it clear that it is always her choice. She could fight and kill, but chooses not to - on her terms. She is strong character and one that I rooted for throughout.
The plot moves along at a good pace and the reveals are well handled. Though the book lacks a killer twist at the end it does an admirable job of setting up the next in the series. It is also worth noting that in between the bad language (always in character) and blood no character is safe from the author’s willingness to kill them off for the good of the story.
I am looking forward to reading more in the series.