The Thousand Scars by Michael R Baker (Counterbalance #1)

I'm relatively new to military Fantasy. That said, I'm quite certain that Michael Baker has crafted an absolutely fantastic novel.

The Thousand Scars begins with a war between two parties, the Balian Empire and the Dominion.We are led to believe based on point of view perspectives that the Balian Empire is the faction to root for, and that's just fine.  We are introduced to a number of characters that, through dialogue as opposed to exposition, explain the history of the war. We also learn that the Dominion destroys the city of Valare with sorcery and that necromancy was used to hold the Dominion at bay.

The main story revolves around two major points of view. Tyrone Cessil, a young warrior from the destroyed city of Valare, with no hope to cling to and all his friends dead in battle, joins a mercenary group called The Thousand Scars, which is spearheaded by Tyir, the feared and hated necromancer that secretly turned the tables in the battle against the Dominion. With the catchphrase "The Thousand Scars will bleed the world" , Tyir and a band of debauched mercenaries with young Tyrone at their side simply clinging to his survival instinct set out to wreck havoc against the corruption of the Empire, who we learn is not nearly as just as we are led to believe.

On the other side of the coin is the main political intrigue of the story which focuses on Aldmer, the leader of the Empire, and his attempt to sway Tyir to their side to be used as a tool In battle. It's here that we are introduced to Baker's amazing use of gray characters in his incredibly Grimdark world. We see lines crossed to achieve results that are shocking and disturbing and much like GRRM, will leave your mouth open with disbelief as beloved characters die, and loyalties shift. It's through these sections that we learn what it means for the victors to write the histories of war, and we realize everything we thought we knew was wrong .

While Baker writes some exceptionally well choreographed battles that are fun and easy to follow, it is his character moments that make the novel such a great read. Tyrone is a truly conflicted character. He's lost everything he values so he takes a chance at a new life, but what he sees as a member of the Scars keeps him constantly at war with his own morals, his desperation, and his anger and desire for change. Tyir is also a wonderful multidimensional character who shifts his presence from Jedi Master/Father figure to Tyrone, to crazed bloodthirsty killer often in a matter of pages. While we root for him and The Scars, we know at the core of it that they have committed monstrous atrocities.

I have read books that are more complex. I have read books that are more flowery and poetic in their prose, but one thing I can clearly state is that Baker has set up something amazing with this novel. His incredible pacing, high energy battles, and quirky dialogue (especially between members of The Scars) will keep you turning pages long in to the night. As a debut novel, The Thousand Scars is one of the finest I've read in the Fantasy genre, and Baker has me invested in his world and stoked for the next instalment.

8/10 Incredible pacing, high energy battles, and quirky dialogue that will keep you turning pages long in to the night.

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The Thousand Scars reader reviews

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