Iron Truth by S. A. Tholin review

SPSFC Team Review: Iron Truth by S. A. Tholin

Welcome! I wanna start off this post by pointing out the obvious: as team leader, it falls on my shoulders to catch you up on what team Queen’s Book Asylum/Fantasy Book Critic has been reading and loving. I’ve been unwell almost all month of June and that task has been delayed.

But today is a great day to do so: SPSFC has crowned its winner and we were ecstatic with the news! This was one of our collective top favorites in the comp

Out of the 300 books, and our personal batch of 30, S. A. Tholin‘s Iron Truth rose to the #1 spot in the competition and we at the Asylum are celebrating that with a team review. Congrats to the author and her awesome book for winning the first ever SPSFC!

And thank you to every author who gave us the chance to read your books. More reviews incoming.

About the Book
Series: Primaterre #1Genre: Sci-fi
Date of Publishing: March 17, 2018Trigger Warnings:
Page count: 591Publisher: Self-published
Book Blurb
Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin

Fresh and surprising on every level, IRON TRUTH is an epic science fiction adventure with a twist of cosmic horror, bursting with staggering world-building, unremitting action and memorable characters.
When miners on a remote colony dig too deep, the golden age of space exploration comes to a bloody end. A corruption springs from Xanthe’s alien soil, possessing every mind it touches.

Embroiled in civil war, the galactic community spirals into panic, and the Primaterre Protectorate seizes control. In order to preserve Earth, its surface is quarantined, and all further deep space colonisation is outlawed.

Aboard one of the last colony ships, junior botanist Joy Somerset slumbers in cryostasis, unaware of war and corruption. Expecting the clear skies of a garden colony, she instead wakes stranded on Cato – a planet whose menacing sands seem to share a hunger with the crazed locals – and Joy faces mortal peril at every turn.

Commander Cassimer, troubled by a past of epic proportions, is a Primaterre veteran dedicated to fighting the corruption. Now he leads Scathach Banneret Company’s elite strike team on a mission to recover a clandestine starship lost on Cato. On this storm-lashed world, surrounded by shadow and ruin, Cassimer faces not only failure, but the loss of what little sanity he has.

Joy and Cassimer must trust each other long enough to uncover Cato’s dark secret and work together to survive deranged cultists, terrorist rebels, and the IRON TRUTH.


Iron Truth came out as one of our top three books of the competition. Team 7 loved the authentic characters, complex worldbuilding, and prized it as sci-fi that brings something new into the genre.

Rowena says:

Iron Truth impressed me across the board. From the premise, I had been expecting a little more cosmic horror than we got, but I did enjoy the balance we got and Thorin does an excellent job with the creepy, horror and horror-adjacent parts. However, I think what really stood out about this one for me, was the sheer scope and detail involved in the worldbuilding, it felt as though we were learning new aspects of the wider universe all the way through and that leaves me excited to find out where the author will take it in future books. The characters and action were well-written, and the twists and turns and the feeling that actions and choices whether good or bad had consequences kept me reading from start to finish.


Arina says:

Iron Truth drops you right into conflict that is fast, tense, and terrifying. Its horror elements set it apart in the genre (anyone else love space spiders?) as an action-packed story that doesn’t skimp on worldbuilding or its characters and the relationships between them. I didn’t much enjoy the overly flowery sexual/romantic scenes but it could catch the eye of a reader who enjoys romance blended in their science-fiction. Its strongest point is its gray morality, the lack of hard lines drawn in the sands of its pages. Labels like right and wrong get more blurred as the cast widens and every character, whether you love or hate them, establishes a strong sense of individuality that makes them compelling. I particularly loved reading about a disabled protagonist in a sci-fi setting which I often can’t find. As all chonkers, it threads waters in a slow build but it does a great job of exploding plenty of times and leaves enough questions for readers to eagerly hunt for answers in the sequel.


Chels says:

Iron Truth is a book with many elements. Not only does it have complex worldbuilding, space travel and a life threatening plot point, it has a strong horror element and a very human side. Grief is a big factor in this book and I enjoyed watching the characters come to terms with different forms of loss along the way. If you are a big horror fan and are looking for something that dabbles in sci-fi too, this is definitely what you are looking for. A life threatening world full of things that could kills you, from animals to the weather, this is a tough environment and one that is written about amazingly.


Paul says:

Iron Truth was the first book I read in the SPSFC that really blew me away, and it did so continuously from the very first page.  There’s no gradual immersion, no slow burn, just claws and teeth that grip you from the very first chapter, one that immediately showcases S.A. Tholin’s deep and complex world-building.
The story itself is meaty and brimming with all of your favourite sci-fi staples, plus a tantalising array of imaginative and high-concept themes. Both the world and setting are expansive, stunningly realised, and brutal as heck.

Then, of course, there are the characters themselves, of which there are many, all of whom are engaging, believable, and authentic. With perhaps the exception of Joy, they each exist inside a nebulous miasma of grey morality. You’re not going to find any ‘paragons of virtue’ here, just broken people doing the best that they can to enact their own personal brand of good in the world.

Iron Truth is an exceptionally written book, one that is highly visual and delivered with the pacing and adrenaline-fuelled fury of a sci-fi blockbuster.

Our Judgement