The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker #SPFBO
My most recent book for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off was Phil Tucker’s Path of Flames. To be honest, I expected to like this one before I started. The glowing review of the blogger who submitted this book to Stage 2 was so convincing that I actually went and bought book No.2 simply with the expectation that I would be in love and would want to continue on. Thankfully that very much proved to be the case. This was both compelling and fast paced. To be honest I was captivated by the characters and found myself driven to keep on reading even into the early hours of the morning making this a speedy read indeed.
The book gets off to a great start, literally bursting out of the gates with a dramatic battle sequence. From there we quickly build up a picture of the world and it’s inhabitants as the author weaves together a rich story with protagonists that I really cared for and great world building that really helps to set the scene.
I don’t want to really elaborate on the plot as I think that way lies the path of spoilers. It’s probably easier to expand on the story simply by discussing the world building and characters.
Obviously when you read quite a few fantasy novels it’s easy to start to make comparisons and this book is no exception. For me this had elements of Tolkien, Martin Feist and Sanderson thrown into the mix. Not that the story was the same just that there were elements that put me in mind of certain books – but in a way that made me smile and that brought out my inner youngster – the one who first feel in love with fantasy after reading Lord of the Rings. This is well done and has a definite 80s type feel, there is strong world building and the author sets the scene well.
The story is told through a number of POVs.
We start with Asho. Squire to Lord Kyferin he may be but it isn’t a position that brings him any joy. All his peers despise him and his Lord and master, having raised him from the life of a slave on a whim, would like nothing more than to see him fail. Asho is stubborn though and although he’s set up to fail he’s determined to succeed. Asho is from Bythian – which, in a world where the religion is based on caste, placed him at the very bottom of the ladder. His life should have been one of slavery and therefore his elevation in life is greatly begrudged by many.
Lady Iskra. *Slight spoiler ahead*. Finds out fairly early on in the story that her husband has died in battle thereby releasing her from a very unhappy marriage. To say Lord Kyferin was not overly popular with most people is something of an understatement although among his knights he seemed to be well liked. I liked Lady Iskra, or more to the point I felt terrible for her – or just terribly annoyed on her behalf. she lives in a world where women are chattels and although she is quite a steely character she finds herself being mistreated and betrayed in a way that leaves her virtually stranded, in a dangerous world, with few belongings and a scant few friends to aid her.
Kethe – daughter of Lord and Lady Kyferin. Longs to be a knight! She spends all her free time, training in secret and when the time finally comes to prove herself she enters and is given permission to take part by her mother, a tournament. I confess that I loved this section of the story. Up until this point I think Kethe came across a little spoiled – yes, she wanted to break the mould but if she didn’t have such a privileged upbringing she would hardly have had the opportunity to scarper off to the forest to practice swordsplay at every opportunity now would she – a fact that she seems blissfully unaware of. But, her participation in the tournament was so well done. She doesn’t just rush onto the field and kick everyone’s butt – which is the one thing I was scared of, in fact she finds herself unceremoniously knocked to the ground.
Audsley is the bookish character of the piece. He’s a magister and his one aim in life is to be well read. He carries along a bag of tools of his trade and is followed by his faithful and fiery firecat. He’s not the most courageous of the book, at the start anyway, but he pretty soon finds himself pulled into the adventure, probably against his own better advice, and soon becomes rather fundamental to the survival of the group.
Ser Tirón is the dark character of the piece. Well, he has good right to be so. For the last few years he has spent his time imprisoned for trying to kill Lord Kyferin’s wife and daughter. Of course he didn’t simply wake up one morning with that notion. Rather it was brought out of him as a need to avenge himself for the death of his own wife, at the hand of Kyferin – a murder that was carried out simply as a result of petty jealousy. Tiron is released from prison by Lady Iskra because she basically needs all the help she can muster. Whether she can trust him remains to be seen but he is an interesting character.
The final character who we follow is Tharok. Tharok is some kind of Orc (I think). His is an interesting story that sees him, after a long pursuit and a fight to survive, discover a sword and headband that seem to imbue him with strength and power of thought. From here we see Tharok as his plans and ambitions start to take shape. I must admit that I was puzzled about his involvement until much later in his story when he buys, and then frees a human slave – a woman with a connection to one of our other POV characters. It will be really interesting to see how the two stories come together.
I really did have fun with Path of Flames. Admittedly, it’s not particularly ground breaking but even so it is very entertaining and kept me quite riveted. Gates that are used to travel between different realms, battles, tournaments, dark magic, and all sorts of critters.
I certainly recommend Path of Flames without hesitation and I shall be moving onto book No.2 shortly.