ALONG THE RAZOR’S EDGE by Rob J. Hayes (Book Review)
I was a big fan of Never Die, a recent standalone from Rob, and decided with the release of this new four-book series and this whole goddamn pandemic thing keeping me indoors all day that it was a great time to jump into something with a bit more length and breadth. I am glad I did.
Eskara was forcibly taken from her family as a child and trained by the Orran government to wield an awesome power, a power that allows her to harness one or more of twenty different energies by swallowing a stone or gem that carries that force within it. At fifteen years old, despite being a ‘Sourcerer’ of incredible talent, she is on the losing side of a great war against the Terrelans and has been taken as a POW. Cast into the infamous Pit, an underground cavernous maze of a prison, she is determined to be the first one to escape so she may continue the fight against the invading and conquering nation that looks set to erase her people and her culture. She is a fantastic character, often driven completely by emotion and a deep unabiding anger. Considering her life so far it is no surprise.
I love the writing and the speed at which the story moves along, so much so I read the whole thing over two sittings. I felt immersed in the Pit and energised by Eskara’s actions to get the hell out of there. The magic system was entertaining and gave us some great moments and I am really looking forward to seeing what happens in the future when Eskara hopefully has access to a few ‘sources’ in real time. As always with good grimdark there was an oppressive atmosphere always looming that was present even when Eskara skipped back and forth in her storytelling.
Talking about the voice, the POV is an interesting one. I am not sure what it is technically called but it’s first person and the main character is telling her story as though she herself is the author writing her memoirs. It’s an interesting voice but also a tricky one because quite often it reveals the fates of characters and results of interactions before the storyteller. Despite the bold and foreboding statement that “No one escapes the Pit”, we know very early on that Eskara makes it out of the pit because she mentions almost instantly that she has moved far past there. We know who in the party survives the escape because their actions in the future are mentioned, and therefore logically we often know who dies because they are not. It’s a device that is more prevalent during the early stages and didn’t detract too much from the tension being built up, but I could see some readers finding it a little frustrating if they’ve not come across it before. All I can say is: stick with it.
The characters read as real, and each death was felt. Almost everyone in a prison is going to be self-serving and manipulative and Hayes did a great job at fleshing out them out so they were more than that. A great deal of the character development occurred through the relationships and interactions between the characters, which I really enjoyed. Moments of change and revelation always hold more interest for me when they can be experienced through a number of different eyes or in a situation where the politics of many is in play. Self-discovery in a cave alone whilst mid monologue is great, but this just offers so much more to eat up. There are some people we really know very little about that I am really looking forward to visiting again in future volumes.
In terms of self-publishing, fear not intrepid reader, the quality is absolutely exceptional. I didn’t have a single moment of being thrown out of the story because of grammatical errors or sloppy editing, which I know is one of the reasons that some readers avoid anything that has not been through a traditional publishing house.
Overall, Along the Razor’s Edge is an exciting start to a series that I think many will love. It’s grimdark at it’s finest and filthiest and driven by a wild, powerful and unpredictable protagonist. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.