*I proof-read this novel and received a free ARC of the final book, with no obligation to review at all. This review is unbiased and represents my own personal opinions.*
Blurb: Becoming a target is never great, but it’s a little worse when the people trying to kill you are technically the good guys.
Gabe escaped the Ether with the ultimate prize, and he thought that meant he was done with deadly cosmic games. But the nightmares infesting his life have different plans, and they’re not asking nicely before dragging him back in. It turns out having all the power in the universe doesn’t mean much if you have no idea what to do with it.
So together with Heather, he embarks on a frantic race to collect the remaining six Iglas and stave off the coming darkness. And in the process, they discover just how much deeper their problems go. With new threats lashing at them from every side, and old ones tightening their grip, it becomes a contest against chaos to see who will dictate the future of reality: the assorted protectors of Earth, an all-consuming darkness…or a conman who would really rather not.
Blight Marked is the third book in the Ethereal Earth series, an ongoing story about the things that are real, the things that aren’t, and all the ridiculous crap in the gray space between.
Blight Marked is the third in Josh Erikson’s Ethereal Earth series, and if you haven’t already read Hero Forged and Fate Lashed then go and do that, right now! This is a series that builds on the characters and main plotline as it goes, so while technically you could read them out of order, why on earth would you want to miss out on the exciting backstory so far?!
Fellow Harry Dresden fans will find some similarities here, in terms of snarky tone and worldbuilding elements, but Erikson is better at writing his female characters with agency and distinct personalities, and his hero – Gabe – is less prickly-machismo outsider and more uncertain, scraping-by-and-winging-it outsider. A little less abrasive, a little easier to identify with!
Here the pace and stakes are upped again from previous instalments, and Gabe and Heather are facing the vast, empty nothing at the end of everything, whilst battling what appears to be the whole world – human and supernatural. Still, they have each other, and I was delighted to see their core team expanding to encompass a wide range of skills and eccentricities: Dante, Hwei-Ru, James and Ken are all present, and there is a new ally in the form of little Penny – a childlike water spirit. The resulting personality mix and ensuing banter are a joy to read.
Aka Manah, Paul-the-Hound, bokor Reznik and the Templars also return, less joyfully. Disappointingly for Aka Manah (or is it?), he is no longer the centre of Gabe’s attention in the fight against evil, as this time around Gabe’s daddy issues are shunted aside to make room for some pretty distracting mummy issues. Good job he’s not in the middle of a race to find the remaining iglas, save the world and so forth… Oh dear!
Completely immersive, this instalment manages to be even better than the previous two (which I raved about here and here) – action-packed, magical, snarky, urban-fantasy fun from start to finish. Another great addition to my favourites shelf!
‘By the time his feet hit the ground, Gabe was proud of three things. First, that he hadn’t screamed once, despite really, really wanting to. Second, that he’d somehow avoided bashing into the walls as he’d frantically struggled to keep his balance. And third, that he’d landed with entirely dry pants. As far as he was concerned, that was his greatest accomplishment to date. Now all he was left with was figuring out why anyone on earth would ever want to do that recreationally.– Josh Erikson, Blight Marked
He carefully unclipped his harness and gave Heather every ounce of nonchalance he could muster. “Not too bad.”
She watched him for a second, then shook her head and laughed softly as she came to help him get free. “I saw when you hit the halfway mark, Gabey. You looked like Pinocchio coming to life on his strings.”’