Jen reviews A Quiet Vengeance, the first book in Tim Hardie‘s new fantasy series, Samarak Tales.
Thank you to Tim Hardie for the ARC of A Quiet Vengeance and also your patience with me still not having read Sundered Souls.
|Series: Samarak Tales #1||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: April 14, 2023||Trigger Warnings: death, violence|
|Page count: 371||Publisher: TJH Publications UK|
Nimsah is an abandoned child living on the streets of Bengarath, surviving on her wits as part of a criminal gang in the City of Tents, home to the dispossessed. Dojan is the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujareen, enjoying a life of luxury in Bengarath Palace. Their lives are brought together as the threat of war looms in the neighbouring city state of Kandarah. However, Dojan and Nimsah share a secret, one that will set in motion a chain of events leading to vengeance.
“The concerns of Amuran’s rulers are petty when compared with the quiet influence the banking clans exercise. The rule of an emir or a sultan is measured in years, while we orchestrate our affairs in spans measuring centuries.”
I swear, picking the song is the hardest part of this whole review writing gig. Finding something that matches the build of the story, while not feeling too light, or have it leaning towards a relationship break-up song was freaking tough. This does feel a little relationship-focused but what do you do when your deadline is approaching for posting? You run with it. I mean, really, betrayal is still all about relationships in the end anyway, right?
So because of that, I thought this song worked. Though nothing will ever beat the original Phil Collins version in my eyes, this metal cover was pretty-darned-good and I think the grittiness of the sound suits fantasy.
In The Air Tonight covered by State of Mine
I had read Tim Hardie’s other book Hall of Bones for SPFBO, and was impressed with that story – enough that I wanted to continue on with the series. But life has gotten in the way as it tends to do, and here I am still not having finished the Brotherhood of the Eagle series, when lo and behold – a new shiny book from Tim began circulating Twitter, and I knew I had to read this one too (especially after hearing Bjorn Larssen sing its praises).
The fact that it’s totally separate from the other series while still residing in the same world, meant that I could jump in without any qualms about spoilers.
A Quiet Vengeance is not a big battle-filled sprawling fantasy. Though the world is large and political intrigue is center – the story itself is a smaller-focussed, character-oriented piece with far-reaching ripples, that alternates the two POVs. between the past and the present, with around a fourteen-year jump between them.
There are quite a few that are noteworthy (I especially loved Fenara, Jandral, and Quizar) but I’m going to talk about the two leads only.
Nimsah is smart and adaptable. A street child of the tents, most of her story unfolds in the past and I found those chapters absolutely engrossing. Even though we meet her in the now time, and we know she gets out of that life – that journey wasn’t lessened by the knowledge (I had so much anxiety over her run through the streets to meet Jandral).
Nimsah as an adult represents the Bank of Illesh – the biggest money lender around and with a well-earned, scary reputation. You don’t want to get on their wrong side because their influence stretches far and wide, and they can break countries with it.
There was something about Nimsah that captured my attention and kept it. I never once doubted her capabilities in the position she has with the Bank of Illesh. She has a hard edge to her, even as a child.
But she still manages to have a softness that allows her to be approachable- which is such a tricky thing to balance in a character- without teetering into unlikeable, or just plain old gullible. There are a lot of great capable women characters out there, but not all of them have endeared me to them as Nimsah has done.
Dojan, the crown prince, is a bit of a laze-about. He, at first, seems a bit bland and uninteresting. He has no goals and is a bit spoiled. The most curious thing about him, in the beginning, is how he and someone like Nimsah, could possibly have met in the past.
That is until his father sends him on a mission to Kandarrah with a delegation to help negotiate between the tribes over a safe passage route to Amonduras – a city that was long ago cut off from everyone due to the poisonous swamps and jungle surrounding it.
Then we get to know more about Dojan, and we see that given the opportunity, he is ready to be more than the careless prince. He is honorable and isn’t going to be bullied into just following what he is told. His naivety is rather endearing, though likely to get him killed. Luckily, he is a quick study.
I enjoyed the split timeline for several reasons.
Nimsah’s chapters felt a little faster in pacing, mostly I think because the focus was smaller with fewer characters to keep track of (plus Nimsah is just amazing, and I just couldn’t get enough of her). But they also helped balance out the politics and character-heavy chapters of the present time with Dojan. This went a long way in keeping the pacing steady, and flowing nicely, until the present reached a point where we were familiar with the goings on in the world and there wasn’t so much heavy lifting involved in reading them. If that makes sense.
I’m staying away from too many details about the plot. It’s heavily tied to the characters’ stories and I don’t want to spoil anything important.
The setting and magic are low fantasy. The world is recovering after a huge war, and society collapse. There is sight magic (a mind reader type of thing) and among other things mentions of an ancient casket of unknown fading power, that are used to power the city, and the hopes of rekindling its source. There is just enough of this to explain how things work now, without pulling the story down with lots of exposition explaining how it all came about. Which was more than fine by me.
A Quiet Vengeance weaves a tightly-plotted and layered, political fantasy which excels at revealing the long game while still keeping it all about these two characters whose lives have intersected over the years. It’s an incredible story and the characters steal the show. I can’t sing its praises enough and hope Nimsah and Dojan will worm their way into others’ hearts as quickly as they did mine.
Fans of Richard Nell’s Ash and Sand, or William Ray’s Tales of Verin might appreciate A Quiet Vengeance.
If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, please consider signing up to receive email notifications or follow us on social media:
You can also support us on Ko-fi so we could keep maintaining the Asylum!
Leave a Comment