Duskfall (Chaos Queen Book 1).
Christopher B. Husberg.
4.5 stars out of 5.
Pulled from a frozen sea, pierced by arrows and close to death, Knot has no memory of who he was. But his dreams are dark, filled with violence and unknown faces. Winter, a tiellan woman whose people have long been oppressed by humans, is married to and abandoned by Knot on the same day. In her search for him, she will discover her control of magic, but risk losing herself utterly. And Cinzia, priestess and true believer, returns home to discover her family at the heart of a heretical rebellion. A rebellion that only the Inquisition can crush… Their fates and those of others will intertwine, in a land where magic and daemons are believed dead, but dark forces still vie for power.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Duskfall has three main story arcs focusing on three main characters, Knot an amnesiac who near death is pulled from the sea and saved by a Tiellan fishermen called Bahc. Winter, a Tiellan women who is Bahc’s Daughter and Knot’s wife and finally Cinzia, a Priestess of Canta. Knot can’t remember who he was and is haunted by nightmares of nameless faces and killing, on his wedding day to Winter after a year of peace his past catches up with him and he abandons Winter in search of answers to his past and who he truly is. Winter, after the events that transpire at her wedding and learning of Knot’s disappearance goes in search of him and along the way finds out that she has latent psimantic talents that with the help of the drug Faltira/Frost she can control but with drug use there’s always the danger of addiction. Cinzia, who left her home years ago to become a priestess of Canta and upon her return is confronted with the realisation that her family are part of a heretical rebellion.
Along with the three main characters you have a plethora of secondary characters who join them in their separate story arcs. Lian, a childhood friend and fellow Tiellan accompanies Winter in her search for Knot, Kali and Nash, psimancers who are part of the Nazaniin and are also searching for Knot join with Winter and Lian under the guise of friendship aiding Winter in learning more about her psimantic abilities. In Cinzia’s arc she is ably accompanied by her stoic Goddessguard Kovac and her sister Jane the leader of the heretic rebellion as they also search to find answers by translating ancient scripture thought lost. Knot, well Knot has the best secondary character of the book in Astrid. Astrid has her own secrets (only vaguely mentioned and seen, hopefully leaving deeper exploration into her motives for the subsequent books in the series) develops a friendship with Knot along his journey, she is a three hundred year old Vampire in the body of a nine-year old girl, she is snarky and sarcastic being given some of the best lines in the book and you can’t help but smile and guffaw at some of the things she comes out with and says, it’s comedic relief and it works extremely well.
About half way through the book the individual story arcs conjoin and the group sets off together building all the way to the books conclusion, while separate all three of the arcs are interesting and filled with action and discovery but there’s just something about a larger group and for me it was when they all joined together that the book really started to shine as you get the camaraderie, banter and relationships associated with being in a group. And, what a group it is, a husband who left his wife on their wedding day, an addict in denial and a godless vampire and a priestess, an eclectic troupe that somehow gel really well, not to mention that two in the group are Tiellans (Winter and Lian-a once proud Elvish type race now oppressed and generally persecuted by the humans) as they travel throughout.
I know these are only very rudimentary descriptions of the story and characters but the book itself is a story and character driven read and I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers by going into too much detail. Duskfall is a book that incorporates all you could want in a fantasy book, action, heroes and villains and all the shades of grey between, some quality set pieces, humour, emotion, mystery and suspense, secrets, God’s and malevolent dark presences. The book is well written with Husberg giving you plenty of information but never making you feel like you’re being overburdened with it, striking the right balance between character development, story and world building. Speaking of world building, for the book it is of an exceptional high standard, the world created is rich and detailed in history and lore, giving you different religions, races, magic/psimancy and cultures. Along with all the usual fantasy tropes and I found the addition of having a Vampire (Astrid) to be a nice touch adding a dark fantasy element to the book. One of those tropes associated with fantasy did make me apprehensive, namely Knot being an amnesiac. It’s been done before alot of times in books, sometimes to good effect whilst in others it’s been detrimental to the book adding nothing to the story just making it more confusing, this time it works really well adding an extra layer and air of mystery to the character as we follow him as his story and memory unfolds.
The only complaints I have about the book are twofold. Firstly, it took me a while to get into, for the first fifty pages or so I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ but then something clicked and I really started to enjoy the book and found myself pulled into and engaged by the stories being told. And, secondly, while nothing to do with the writing or story itself, the actual book is missing a map, for me that’s a travesty, especially for the first book in a new fantasy series as I’m one of those readers who likes to see maps at the beginning to help and aid in getting a better feel of the world and it’s geography.
After having my interest piqued with the press release and synopsis of the book, I must admit that it was with a slight trepidation that I started this book as I was thinking it’s yet another first book in a new series in an already saturated genre. Now don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fantasy fan, particularly the grimdark sub-genre, it’s my go to genre when I want to escape from the drudgery of reality. With authors who you’ve read their previous works/series before or if it’s the next book in a series then you predominantly know what you’re going to get but with a new author and a new series for me there’s always that small feeling of apprehension lurking in the back of my mind and I’m left questioning, will I like the book? The writing style? The characters? The world building? Will the author manage to pull me into his story? And finally, is this new author worth my time?
And……for Duskfall and Christopher Husberg, the answer is emphatically, Yes. With this book Husberg has crafted a really strong opening book in his Chaos Queen series, which in this bloggers humble opinion is sure to be one of the top new fantasy series over the coming years. And, for Duskfall itself, well it has to be ranked as one of the debut fantasy novels of the year.
This book will appeal to all types of fantasy fans, ranging from grimdark fans to dark fantasy fans through to fans of the more traditional epic style fantasy books who normally shy away from the trappings of grimdark, thinking the visceral gore and profanity is too much. Duskfall is a gripping read that after the slow start captivates you, turning into a real page turner leaving you eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
On a side note,I don’t know about their US publishers but for us UK fantasy fans, Titan now have three top quality fantasy authors on their books in Marc Turner, Tim Akers and Christopher Husberg.