|Series: Faithless #1||Rating: 4.5/5|
|Date of Publishing: June 30th 2017||Genre: fantasy, grimdark|
|Publisher: self-published||Number of Pages: 394|
Quote of the Book
“He sighed, slumping downto the table and rested his forehead on the back of his hands for a moment. He’d been running on shock for most of the evening nit his body hadn’t forgotten he’d already done a full day in the mines. Anger or fear will let you ignore the price of pain for a while but the debt remains, waiting to be paid.”
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.
I was meant to read this book aaaaages ago, and thanks to the fact that I decided to abandon a book 16% in, I grabbed the opportunity and squeezed Faithless into my schedule. This is also the first book, that will go onto my Armed with a Bingo card! I’ve put it under the ‘A book you meant to read last year‘ square.
Song of the Book
I had something different in mind when I started browsing through my player but as I saw Art of Dying, this song jumped in mind right away. And it’s too good of a match, so hey, I’m happy. A lot of people would Die Trying to get out of Aspiration and the temple.
Graham Austin-King‘s writing is not unfamiliar to me. Back in 2018, The Lore of Prometheus was one of my favourite reads of the year. I’ve heard a lot of praise for his previous books, Faithless among them, so I was absolutely determined to read it at one point. The wait was a bit longer than I intended, but I got there in the end. At least now I don’t have to wait as much for the sequel, as anyone else, hah! We know I’m not good at waiting. All that being said, I had pretty high expectations for Faithless, and if it didn’t leave up to it entirely, it pretty damn sure cemented Austin-King on the list of authors whose books I’ll buy no matter what.
Faithless tells the story of the faith of the Forgefather through Wynn’s and Kharios’ life. More or less. We first meet Wynn, who gets sold to the church by his father in order to save their farm and livelyhood. He expects to serve, just not in the mines as a slave. Life in Aspiration is hard and exhausting. The consequences of not meeting the tally are harsh. The only way out if his crew performs well and he gets choosen to be trained by a priest – Lasris, in his case – and complete the trials to be enlisted as a novice. From then on it’s only a question of his provess as a blacksmith and an academic if he can rise in the ranks. He definitely has the wits and the skillset, but circumstances aren’t exactly on his side. Wynn is not someone you’d call brave or righteous, but then he learned his lesson the hard way – shut up, do what you are told and try not to have a conscience. Although he is not really good at the ‘do what you are told’ bit. Or any of it, really. And Aspiration is not exactly the place where such behaviour is appreciated.
“…You know the other reason we call this place Aspiration?” he asked suddenly, waiting for Wynn to shake his head. “It’s got nothing to do with the fact we’re all aspirants. It’s not about aspiring, it’s about aspirating. You know that word? That’s what they call it when you choke to death on your own vomit.”
At the start of the boo, Kharios is a novice who is being called to serve one of the most influential priests, Ossan for the second time along with Arren. Ossan happens to like having two novices around and his intentions not only educational… Kharios, knowing what awaits for Arren tries to warn him, though not hard enough and thus has to face the consequences of Ossan’s wrath. He is practically back to square zero, finding himself half dead in the coal mines. Most people only has one shot at being a novice and work their way into priesthood. Will he be the one to get two shots? Kharios is more of an intellectual type, who is focused on the whys regarding the faith, the Forgefather and the Fall that caused the doom of the church and the loss of so many knowledge.
There are many surprising twists in Faithless. Wynn and Kharios’ paths meet in a way I wasn’t expecting going in. The realisation hit me about 50% in and man, it was cleverly written up until that point – and beyond. But then, the setting itself already promises an intriguing read. The temple, the worship of the Forgefather, the chants and rituals, the hierarchy of the different parts of this community as a whole. The mine and Aspiration has its own ranks as well as the church, and though there is a possibility of passing the ranks, it doesn’t happen often or means a better life. I especially liked how the forge was in the focus of this religion, and the way the different techiques were explained – now, I’m no expert, I don’t even know the first thing about forges or smithing, but I found myself fascinated.
Faithless takes its time to build up to action – not saying there isn’t any – as we get to know the inner workings of the mines and the temple, we meet the characters and generally got ourselves immersed in this dark, oppressive work where happiness can only be find with a magnifier if you search long enough. Things pick up in the second half as the focus shifts to the faith itself and Wynn and Kharios are looking for their answers. I think I found it harder to really connect with the characters and the writing didn’t grip me as hard as I hoped, but I think this only proves that Austin-King just only gets better with every book, and I honestly can’t wait to read the sequel.
Faithless has a lot to offer for those who are looking for a good grimdark fantasy where the events are confined to one or two places – though they are vast places to be fair. Austin-King really has a touch for making you uncomfortable but unable to turn away or put down the book. There is always something you don’t see coming from behind a turn.