The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly

The Way Into Chaos book cover
Rating 7.5/10
A pretty awesome epic character-focused fantasy story for readers wishing to scratch that Brandon Sanderson itch.

I read The Way Into Chaos for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off as it was promoted to the final stage by Ventureadlaxre. 

The city at the heart of the empire was preparing to host a festival full of song, merriment, and martial contests. As the event is about to get underway a swarm of powerful, nimble, and intelligent bearlike beings unexpectedly invade and annihilate the capital. A handful of interesting, important and sometimes opposing characters are fortunately whisked away on a magical sky cart. The narrative then follows the two point of view perspectives of Tyr Tejhon Treygar the legendary warrior, and Cazia Freewell, a royal hostage who sees enemies everywhere. She is a great friend of the empire's prince, who also escapes the dilemma. This revelation arrives at about 7% through the tale and it felt slightly abrupt yet I did like the way it sets the story up well. Chaos is the word. What happens next is formulating a plan of action to save the empire from the invaders yet with the capital extinguished are the other members of the alliance going to take this as the desired time to act against each other? The fall of this city reminded me of the aftermath of the destruction of Troy in the Aeneid where a few individuals escape and then readers follow the hardships and unpredictable events which happen to them next. 

Character development is a very strong quality in The Way Into Chaos, especially for the two main players and also for a few of the secondary members of the ensemble such as the 12-year-old Princess Ivy. To begin with, I did prefer to follow one of the two main protagonists more than the other but approaching the conclusion I would have lapped up whichever viewpoint I was offered. One character becomes very much like their old self and the other becomes completely alien to who they were at the beginning. It's really interesting to follow.

I did struggle with the book for certain chapters. This was down to the pacing and the flow. As mentioned previously, the start seemed rushed however interesting and exciting it was. Some sections dragged but others I raced through and couldn't wait to see what happened next in the scenes. In similar fashion, certain world building and poetical landscape descriptions were of the highest quality so the picturesque images took over my imagination. Other segments had four sentences which covered the same time frame with overt simplicity. Certain sections seemed uneven to me but this is my only real negative story wise. From the last 40% however, the rhythm was found and it all worked swimmingly and I couldn't put the book down. Story and character wise The Way Into Chaos is an 8.5/10, the pacing is a 6 hence my rating meeting somewhere in the middle. There are also a handful of grammatical and slight spelling errors throughout the novel but these didn't throw me out of the story, which has happened to me before, because they were so minor.

The magic system was very well crafted featuring scholars, wizards, and hollows. It features an art known as the Gift which has certain numbered steps (spells) which can produce phenomenal magic. You are not able to overdo the magic though as it turns wielders hollow which was reminiscent of them having the needs and desperations of a heroin addict. Although not as complex, this side of the story will appeal to fans of Sanderson and Islington. 

There are quite a lot of cities, alliances, and an interesting military hierarchical structure. This story is best described as epic fantasy and features an original set of monsters that mainly aren't borrowed from what has come beforehand. It's not grimdark as the characters and their ambitions are (mostly) likable but it does have a fair few grim moments with people being burned alive, eaten, having limbs lopped off and being stabbed everywhere! 

The Way Into Chaos is not really a standalone novel and is just building up for what happens next in The Great Way series. However, it expertly concludes with two separate cliffhangers and I definitely want to find out what happens next for our protagonists. It is a pretty awesome epic character-focused fantasy story for readers wishing to scratch that Sanderson/ Islington itch. It does have pacing issues but if you can look past that then there is a lot to enjoy here. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel.

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