The Path of Flames, by Phil Tucker

pathofflames

The Book

Ok, so I’m going to come straight out and admit that initially I totally misjudged this novel. It opens on an extremely action heavy battlefield scene, with all the screaming and crunching and twirling that comes with it. Tons of people love that sort of thing, but it is very decidedly not my cup of tea. That’s not really a criticism of the novel (in fact, I intend it as an endorsement if you like that kind of thing), just an aside about my taste as a reader before you continue. So my first impression was, “Oh, this is going to be a plot driven action heavy story with not much in the way of character development” because that’s often how these things go.

What a pleasant surprise for me. It is plot driven and action heavy, but it actually manages to pull off the trifecta of some very well developed characters, too. I found Ser Tiron, Kethe and Audsley to be some real standouts. What we have here is a traditional high fantasy in the vein of Robert Jordan, a callback to the style of the 80s and early 90s with some modern twists and turns. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of religion and the sense of doubt setting in for our plucky crew. Now, some readers do find that they don’t enjoy common fantasy tropes and those readers may have a harder time. Tucker touches on many tropes and archetypes, from powerful magical artifacts found lying around to “chosen ones”. I personally thought for the most part he was successful and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all, but I have never minded tropes provided they are done well.

Also of interest is the story of an Orc-like character, which runs parallel to the main story without intersecting with it. Towards the end it becomes clear why we’re learning about this character and his race/culture, and how the stories are likely to clash in later installments. I kept expecting the stories to cross over at some point in the novel, but I can see where Tucker is going with this and I rather like it.

From a purely technical standpoint, the prose was straightforward and there were some phrases that popped up a little too frequently (“over and over” springs to mind) but that’s minor stuff. The performance of Noah Michael Levine on the audiobook was neither dynamic nor distracting, which worked just fine for me.

Overall, an exciting and well-plotted story that builds to an enjoyable payoff. It ties up nicely and sets up the second book without cliffhangers.

/r/Fantasy Bingo 2017 Squares

  • Self-Published Author
  • 2016 Underread/Underrated

Cocktail

 

firecat

The Firecat

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