During times of war, no one goes unscathed. By Ultner, even in times of peace, few can escape suffering. Ardia is on the brink of civil war, though most citizens are woefully unaware of this fact.
Fenrir de Trenton, a disgraced guardsman-turned-ineffective-criminal, is accustomed to taking orders. So much so that, despite the danger, he finds himself neck-deep in the politicking of his current superiors as well as the rulers of the country. The fact that Fenrir’s father would rather see him dead doesn’t help matters.
Emma Dram, a handmaiden of the great Lady Escamilla, hates Fenrir with a fiery passion and with good reason: he lopped off most of her hand. Nonetheless, she finds herself in close proximity to her former lover as she seeks to serve her lady liege in fomenting her own rebellion.
Hafgan Iwan is a Wasmer, a race reviled by humans, who serves the same masters as Fenrir. His efforts to assimilate with human culture only earn him the derision of his own race, and he seeks to find belonging amidst the escalating conflict.
Meanwhile, Merigold Hinter, a serving girl with an unusual power, lives a simple existence, hoping for love, adventure, and to see the world. Her life should be untouched by political maneuvering and war. However, her world becomes a crucible—how much can one woman bear before breaking?
A story of love lost and family destroyed, of bigotry and belonging, of suffering and strength, and of religion and magic, SOLACE LOST grows from a character-driven tale to something grand in scale, perhaps even involving the gods, themselves.
Solace Lost by Michael Sliter is a grimdark diamond in the rough that I’m surprised I don’t see more people talking about.
First and foremost, this is a character driven book. That’s not to say there isn’t action, there definitely is, but the drive of the narrative is definitely the characters. Very reminiscent of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Solace Lost spends a majority of its time setting up Fenrir, Merigold, Emma and Hafgan.
Every character has their own distinct personality. You can tell who’s POV you’re in before a name is mentioned because of how strong their voices are. While all their backstory is not revealed, you get enough to understand why they are who they are and the choices they make never stray from what Sliter established throughout the story.
The stand out characters for me were Merigold and Fenrir. Merigold goes through an immense amount of trauma throughout the story, but it never feels cheap or degrading. The way she develops from there, in my ignorant opinion, was believable and heart-breaking. Fenrir’s story is very different from Merigold’s. His is a story of the dangers that come with blindly following orders and the dark road self pity can take you down. We follow him as he struggles with physical and mental problems while fighting with his selfish instincts to be a better man.
Hafgan and Emma I feel got a little less development, but their stories were gripping none-the-less. Emma’s relationship with Fenrir is very interesting and their interactions lead to some of my favorite scenes in the book. Hafgan, a Wasmer, which I envisioned as a Sasquatch, is trying to blend in with human society and ends up scorned by both his people and the humans. His story will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong and had to fight for acceptance.
The magic is a bit on the light side, but with promises that in the future it will become more prominent. The story starts very small, intensely and intimately focusing on the characters and broadens it’s scope slowly until the end when everything explodes. The magic is very intriguing and I can’t wait to learn more in the coming books.
Solace Lost is brutal character study in the vein of Abercrombie, but very much it’s own thing. The world and characters are original and the action scene are captivating. Sliter’s prose is simple and beautiful, never distracting from the narrative but always engaging. If you like your fantasy dark, bloody, and with believable characterizations, what are you waiting for? Pandemonium is rising…