The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan (The Black Iron Legacy #3)

There was a section of Gareth Hanrahan’s The Broken God, the third book in the The Black Iron Legacy series, that I didn’t want to end. The reader is led through a land ravaged by the Godswar, where anything is possible, and Hanrahan’s creativity and imagination shines the brightest. It reminded me Ed McDonald’s nightmare Misery environment mixed with Michael Fletcher’s insane, hypnotized mob cult from The Mirror’s Truth. The Godswar-set chapters was the first time in the story that truly pulled me in, but it took a long while to get there. I recall The Shadow Saint having a slow first half before rocketing toward an amazing finish, and this book started in the same fashion, but the excitement level never reached the same heights as the previous volume. There are a few reasons why.

Cari still has a lead role, and after two books of playing thief and guardian angel, she spends most of the book on a journey across the world to bring help back to Guerdon. I like this decision, as I felt that Cari needed a change of environment. Seeing her struggle outside her comfort zone - without the help of Spar - is one of the best parts of the book. It was more-or-less an origin story for Cari, and we finally get to see the larger world that has been often referenced, but rarely visited.

There are a couple of other returning POVs. While Eladora has very little page time, Artolo fills the role of the main antagonist, and goes through some exciting transformations. But we have two new main characters we spend most of the book with: Rasce, a young ‘prince of the dragon,’ a favored dragon rider who is placed in Guerdon for racketeering and political purposes. His actual-dragon family are prideful beasts who, to me, seem like they don’t give a Rat’s carcass what humans they favor – even their own so-called ‘blood’ family is entirely expendable as long as they gain power. However, Rasce rises above his station because he is able to form a bond with Spar, the living city – an ability that was previously only accessible to Cari. He uses his power and resources to take advantage of his connection to Spar, but he’s conflicted because he’s not sure what the right path is.

Every couple of chapters, Rasce seemed like a different person. Smug and annoying, then full of potential, then Machiavellian at the expenditure of innocent lives. It was a crapshoot at what kind of Rasce you were going to get, and his inconsistently prevented me from warming up to him.  He is singular minded, has a lack of foresight, is wishy-washy, arrogant, and his time spent developing a connection to Spar felt like familiar territory.

Baston is the other main POV. He’s an ex-bodyguard for the Fever Knight, and while he has committed some horrible and murderous deeds, I get a sense that I’m being pushed to like him because of his fierce loyalty to his word, and his populist beliefs. I do like the fact that he is forced into decision-making that goes completely against what he desires, but since he cannot break his word, everyone must suffer due to his selfish refusal to help his former kin. I just wasn’t buying into it. Making a promise to your boss is enough to give up everything and everyone you believed in? Even when there were ripe opportunities to take back what you lost?

Character issues aside, there were some wonderfully written scenes of emotional dialogue, wide-eyed action, and surprising developments scattered throughout the story. Although this was my least favorite of the three, this series is still an easy recommendation. We’re at the midway point of the Black Iron Legacy, and each volume brings major character progressions for Cari, Spar, and especially Eladora. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out, because I haven’t the slightest clue as to where it can go from here. 

7/10 Some character issues hold this volume back, but this imaginative and exciting series is still an easy recommendation.

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