I was sent a review copy of Dawn of the Exile in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Mitchell Hogan for approaching me and 47North for the NetGalley widget.
Set ten years after the conclusion of Shadow of The Exile, the second novel in The Infernal Guardian series sees Tarrik Nal-Valim, one of the most well-crafted and likeable demon characters in fantasy facing a trial regarding his actions in the human world and the following consequences. Five demon lords are presiding and after his case is discussed each of the judges can state whether they believe Tarrik should be offered redemption from his exile, to remain exiled, or to be put to death. It would be a short narrative if the resulting verdict was death at this point so I won't mark this as a spoiler. Following the outcome, Tarrik, a demon of the Thirty-Ninth Order returns to the mundane, dangerous and rundown haunts of Shimrax where the sandglass of his long life is ever so slowly trickling away. Conveniently timed, in a similar style to the previous entry in the series, Tarrick is summoned by a sorcerer from the human world. Hooks pierce his skin causing indescribable agony and rip him through the veil of the very different worlds to serve an unknown being. This is where the story really starts and the mage discusses with Tarrik what the demon will have to do whilst he is bound, what their objective is, and that he will be a sex slave whenever they demand it.
Hogan is a phenomenal wordsmith and although the worldbuilding isn't over the top, needlessly detailed or extravagant I always felt like I was truly in the moment and sharing my emotions with the presented ensemble. The prose is swift and pleasant and therefore this was the only book I cared about whilst I was reading it and I normally work through about four books at a time. Ed McDonald, I believe, penned the phrase 'GrimHeart' and I think Dawn of the Exile would fit that category if such a genre really existed. It's a dark, macabre fantasy world full of slavery, betrayal, magicians flaunting occult powers, mysterious artefacts, and an overpowered, completely insane prisoned demon lord. Apart from the obviously evil characters who themselves could be seen as metaphorical onions with a decent number of layers, there really is a sense of hope, camaraderie, and enjoyment in helping others presented here. Especially in the last half of the novel. New characters are introduced and familiar faces return. One or two of the latter are not as we remember them due to the ten years time progression and what has happened to them in the interim.
I won't regurgitate the same information from my previous review further than saying Tarrik is an incredible character, with heart, a shadowblade and is able to manipulate the dusk, dark, and stars to flaunt certain magic. Dawn of the Exile continues with the not LitRPG but RPG like-upgrade system that demons have and it's really interesting and often exciting.
The finale was breathtakingly exquisite from the eighty per cent through the book point. That isn't to say what went before wasn't great but the ending pushed my rating up by at least 1/10 which means the outcome here had an unprecedented effect on my final score. Slightly over the top but poignantly intense otherworldly showdowns, dream-sequences, and betrayals by those closest to the main cast (or were they?), I could reel off much much more that I adored but I actually want to finish this review sometime today.
This is a gem of a sequel. Whatever gem I would say, emerald, diamond, ruby, I'm happy to state that this is the novel that is the literal equivalent. It is dark, but features heart, has a great cast, stunning pacing, and leaves me salivating for whatever comes next. To conclude, Hot Damn! That ending was phenomenal.
Review by James Tivendale
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