Battleaxe by Sara Douglass
Review by Joshua S Hill
There was a time in my life where I felt that nothing good would ever come out of Australian entertainment. I was right, and I’ll always be right, as long as I continue to ensure that “Australian entertainment” doesn’t refer to Australian literature. That’s not to say that Australian literature isn’t entertaining, but more to ensure that I am once again right.
That being said, over the past 12 months I have come across several brilliantly talented Australian fantasy authors who really know how to write. If nothing else, it bodes well for me, an aspiring author, that my country can produce fantastical literary talent.
Of those Australian writers one of my favorites is Sara Douglass. Born in South Australia, Sara Douglass was born Sara Warneke, but probably assumed that Warneke wasn’t a name you wanted on the front cover of a book. Her first foray into fantasy was Battleaxe, published in 1995, and the beginning of the Axis Trilogy.
*note* in the USA and most European countries, the Axis Trilogy and the following Wayfarer Redemption trilogy are one six book series. Not so in Australia though, where they are kept in their original separate trilogy status, but obviously linked in content. *note*
Battleaxe starts us off in the world of Achar, where the Acharites devoutly worship Artor the Plough God. This is strikingly expressed through the Acharites fervent hatred for trees, forests, etc, and thus the peoples – though originally related through their ancestors – that live within those forests. It is a brilliantly unique premise, and one that works well for Douglass as the series continues.
Enforcing the will of Artor is the Seneschal, the devout religious fanatics you expect at the top of a religious food chain. Their fighting force is the Axe Wielders. And yes, axes, because that’s how you cut down a tree. Their heritage is that they were the ones that drove the Forbidden out of Achar and lopped down all the forests so they couldn’t stay around.
Our main focus however is a young man named Axis, the leader of the Axe Wielders, and a man who will soon turn out to be much more than he – or anyone else – ever expected.
Douglass manages to keep your attention all through the book, despite jumping perspectives every chapter or so. We are introduced to an intricate cast of characters, one part mortal one part mythical and fated. Characters that you think are nothing more than passing attractions soon become imperative not only to the story itself, but to you. Lesser characters, as is always the case for me at least, make up the large majority of my favorites. I am riveted by what is happening to Timozel, Arne and Belial.
Our lead characters though are just as fascinating, and by the end of Battleaxe you will fall in love with Faraday, and your heart will bleed for the situation she has put herself in. You will hate Borneheld, and it won’t be long into the second book that you’ll start to hate the leaders of the Seneschal as well.
Battleaxe is very much part one of three books, and you are left suitable anticipating the next book. Thankfully, for us at least, the entire trilogy (and sextet) is on shelves somewhere.
Picking up these books is definitely recommended. The writing is easy to follow, and though not as refined as the likes of Hobb and Barclay, is measurably excusable in her first literary outing and normally not distracting.
Lisa from South Australia
Have just finished it today, I haven't been able to put it down since I started. I love that one of the place names she uses is an actual South Australian town (Tailem Bend). Not used to seeing South Australian references in my fantasy reading!
Janice from Wales, UK
I didn't want to put this book down and started reading it again as soon as I had finished it. Easy to read, easy to follow and can't wait till I get hold of the next book in the trilogy.
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