The Imbued Lockblade by M D Presley

Rating 8.6/10
A brilliant entry that features a multi-layered story that asks as many questions as it answers, and finds an excellent balance between mystery and discovery.

Note: This review will be discussing minor plot events from The Woven Ring, book one of the “Sol’s Harvest” tetralogy.

There are bonds that feel familiar throughout all genres literature because they resonate true with the audience. These bonds serve as motivators to help push stories forward, and we can relate to them because we experience similar drives in our own lives. Bonds such as loyalty to our kinsmen, or seeking or protecting a loved one can be powerful triggers that drives a person into action. But what if upholding one of these bonds infringes upon the existence of another? What a person of noble intentions must choose between loyalty to their clan against the pursuit or protection of a loved one?

In M.D. Presley’s The Imbued Lockblade, an impressive and thrilling entry in “The Sol’s Harvest” saga, both Marta and Luca face this dilemma head-on. Once again, the book is divided into alternating chapters that tell a story of the present timeline, as well as a series of flashbacks that fills in the back story in the years leading up to current events. While Marta was both the past and present focus in book one of this series, Luca’s origin story takes center stage while the present party continues their trek to meet Caddie Hendrix’s father in Ceilminster.

Marta continues to struggle with her decision of which orders to follow when she ultimately reaches her goal. Her feelings for Caddie continue to blossom, and would willingly giver her life to protect Caddie from the constant threat of glassmen and Renders on their tail. Caddie seems to be the only good thing that has happened to Marta since before the Grand War; she gives Marta a purpose and a reason to live, treating her like her own daughter. (Oddly enough, Caddie calls Marta “Mother.” Hmmm.) Her decision on what to do with Caddie’s father while Caddie remains in her care continues to waver, as she must choose whether to follow the instructions of her family, or that of her heart. Once again, Presley does a wonderful job of considering the implications of each decision, as well as weighing the possibilities that the motivations of all the players might not be as straightforward as they seem. It’s a testament to Presley’s skill in plotting these revelations while weaving exciting action scenes and intricate mysteries throughout the story that elevates this series into rare territory. For each mystery solved, new lore helped to further sculpt the world into an intricate pattern reflective of our own society.

“… hope is a cruel and pernicious weed which takes up residence in the heart and is too hardy to be pruned by thought alone. Instead, to lose all hope, it has to be brutally ripped out by the root through hurt.”

The true star of the book is Luca, and his backstory is as bold as it is heartbreaking. We learn about how Luca, born a ‘grubber’ Dobra in the lower ranks of his Wanderers society, uses his wit and temerity to ascend the Dobra ranks beyond his given station. He falls in love with the matriarch Simza’s daughter, Jaelle, and swears eight years of fealty to Simza for the opportunity to marry Jaelle. However, Jaelle doesn’t return Luca’s affections, so he sourly throws himself into his work: learning how to battle and brawl with a lockblade, leading dangerous trade missions for Simza, becoming educated in the hidden ways of his people. We also learn how me met his companion Isabella, the half-Ingio orphaned mute that later becomes a part of Marta’s band of travelers. As Luca’s story races towards present day, he is also forced to choose between the loyalty of his Dobra clan against the idea of love and happiness he believes he has been chasing for years. The fallout of these decisions not only affect the people in Luca’s past, but also ripple towards catastrophic consequences that concern the future of the entirety of Ayr.

The execution of Luca’s story as it intertwines with Marta’s is a beautiful thing to witness. This book is essentially two road stories woven into one: Marta’s group’s present-day quest to escape their pursuers and reunite Caddie with her father, and Luca’s travels with his Dobra clan as a servant to the cryptic wishes of his matriarch and making decisions that will haunt him the rest of his days. There are some noteworthy parallels to be drawn across both stories, and Presley uses some clever phrasing that ties the past and present storylines together as they shift between each chapter.

I get a sense that there’s much more going on behind the scenes that the reader isn’t privy to yet. It’s obvious that there is a myriad of mysteries that have yet to be solved, but there’s one main theory I wanted to discuss since reviewing The Woven Ring: I’ve heard this series thought of as a “re-telling” of the American Civil War. If this is the case, then the East represent the South, populated by slave owners, who lost the war. This story hints at the East “rising again,” similar to the horrific idea that the “South will rise again.” The books have not yet gone into much detail about the creation of the festations, the Breath-made ethereal automatons that are enslaved to work hard labor in the fields while many of the Easterners gain leisure time. I would not be surprised to learn that perhaps these automatons are not mindless golems, but instead are made of Breaths that can potentially think and feel on their own, therefore redefining their enslavement into something horrifying, yet sadly familiar. Perhaps the Westerns Renders are correct in trying to sever the Breaths of these festations. Maybe our heroes aren’t the heroes we think they are, and the Eastern forces are the true monsters. People such as Carmichael and Graff still have much to answer for if this is the case, but I would not be surprised if Presley pulls the rug out from under the audience when we start to learn more about the Western point of view during the Grand War and post-Grand War era.

“Everything repeats. We live the same day our ancestors did, just with different faces. There was no start, only the flow. Life does not go forward. It is a circle we only think is straight. I will not mourn what was lost, for it will be found again.”

Presley knocks it out of the park again with this entertaining and deeply-affecting novel. As the overarching plot continues to drive forward, we are introduced to many new themes and ideas that leave a powerful residue in the reader’s mind. The Imbued Lockblade is a brilliant second novel from M.D. Presley that stands tall on its own merit; it is a multi-layered story that asks as many questions as it answers, and finds an excellent balance between mystery and discovery that left me excited for the next entry. This is a unique world with memorable characters and well-woven mysteries that I won’t soon forget.

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