*I beta read this novel and received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review is unbiased and represents my own personal opinions.*
Blurb: Enter a world where the cost of magic is life itself and two races are locked in an ages-long conflict built on the lies of the gods.
Vilhelm, a human from the eastern Free-States, was taken for training before he could walk. Battle is almost all he knows. But when he’s sent on a secret mission across the sea, with enemies on all sides, he begins to question everything.
Loyyul, one of the winged serpents from across the eastern sea, doesn’t care about being a warrior or a hero. He only wants to make his family and his tribe proud. But when he comes face-to-face with his race’s two oldest enemies, he must make an impossible choice.
Man and serpent both carry secrets so dark, they are unknown even to themselves. Secrets which could spell disaster if they come to light. But could those secrets be the key to saving both their races?
When the prophesied Calamity strikes, can mortal enemies overcome their inborn conflict and join together to save their world?
Rise of the Overlord (Rise from hereon in) is the second part of the Pre-Calamity story arc begun in The Fall of an Overlord (Fall for laziness purposes).
I found the two novels had quite a different feel to them, mainly due to the tone and pacing. Fall was told from the point of view of heroic oppressed revolutionaries and whilst the initial setting of the world and characters was quite detailed, the action then happened very quickly towards the end: the pacing felt more like the telling of a myth or historical legend. Rise on the other hand has a more balanced pace and tone, giving the story more immediacy and in my opinion greater reader immersion.
Rise begins where Fall left off, but from the perspective of Fall’s villain; the garnet dragon Overlord Graavvyynaustaiur. I found this immediately fascinating, as where previously Graav (we’re on nickname terms!) was seen as a stereotypical all-powerful supervillain (from the point of view of his opposers), the reader now gets an insight into his feelings and motivations. His villainous characterisation remains of course, in his arrogance, violent disregard for others, etc, but we also see a more complex, thoughtful (to the point of philosophy) and nuanced character. I really feel the perspective switching in this book creates an excellent balance, making it hard to dismiss any character with an easy label.
Likewise I felt the characterisation of one of our two main heroes, Vilhelm, was strong and complex. Unlike the more traditional epic fantasy hero, Vilhelm is no saint: he is quick to tell lies and change sides, and his decision-process, which the reader is privy to, is often flawed with bias and self-deceit. These qualities make him more believable and actually more likeable than goody-goody Loyyul! It’s a toss-up between Vilhelm and Graav for my favourite character in this book.
My favourite moments were also between the two of them: Vilhelm’s banter with friends and foes alike, and often with the voices in his own head; and Graav’s exploration of the various stars and worlds, which was both intellectually stimulating and beautifully depicted. I could really feel the ice, heat and aching loneliness of his space travel and provoked a lot more empathy for the character, having shared such experiences with him.
As well as the inventiveness invested in the creation of not just one new planet, but many, the author introduces the concept of many new, intelligent species alongside the humans and torthugra (the winged serpents), which seeds a lot of promise for the series to follow.
The plot arc of this book, as the title suggests, charts the rise of Graav to power in a new world, after his fall in the previous. By the end of the story, this arc is satisfactorily concluded, but it is of course merely the set-up for The Calamity, and the main story arc of the books to follow. There is a great twist at the climax, which whets the appetite really well for the coming books, and whilst the humans, gnelwyns, teranthric, torthugra et al have good reason to fear the impending disaster, I personally can’t wait!
The garnet beast passed the red planet, followed shortly thereafter by the enormous Storm World.
Planet after planet he passed, and bit-by-bit his rage cooled. Tha pain of his wounds still ached, but it dulled. With the passing of time and the easing of his rage and pain, his mastery of his mind returned.
He began working on his plans for the future.
Obviously, he thought, I cannot return home.
– Kevin Potter, Rise of the Overlord
You can find my review of The Fall of an Overlord here.
Rise of an Overlord will be released on Amazon on 31st July 2017 (tomorrow)!