I received an advanced reader copy of The Deathless in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Peter Newman and Harper Voyager for the opportunity.
Newman's first entry into a new fantasy series presents a world with floating castles which are connected by roads of crystal alongside which human settlements are erected. These Godsroads are safe passages between the floating fortresses of the great houses. Covering most of the created environment is The Wilds - a macabre and terrifying forested area full of unspeakable horrors, extreme darkness, shifting trees, and creatures such as the infamous Scurrying Corpseman and Whispercages. Certain segments of the narrative that were set in The Wilds were truly intense and felt like a nightmare right out of a Brother's Grimm fairy tale.
The elite of this world are known as The Deathless and upon dying they are reborn using a family member as a vessel, essentially being reborn in a younger body to rule again. The Deathless have access to crystal armour which incorporates wings and Paralympian runners-like leg blades which grants them the power of flight and presents extra strength, endurance, and stamina. These warriors frequently go on hunts into The Wilds to protect the settlements alongside the Godsroads from the grotesque horrors of the forests and they are the celebrities of this world. We join the action as a rebirthing ceremony is taking place. It turns out that all is not well in House Sapphire and perhaps certain people do not want noble Lord Rochant to be brought back into existence. The Deathless starts off in fantastic fashion featuring assassins, betrayals, complex characters, and a meticulously crafted plot.
There are four point of view perspectives in The Deathless. Two characters are Deathless (Vasin and Pari) and the third is a highborn mother (Chandni) whose child could be used as a vessel for another lifecycle in the future so is extremely important and ultimately sacred. I will not mention the fourth point of view perspective as that could be approaching spoiler territory but it was probably my favourite, was featured much less than the others and was a really unique way of storytelling. The characters are outstanding in this novel. To begin with, I occasionally got Chandni and Pari's scenes confused but that's probably my incompetence and after a quarter of the book I had no such quarrels as there individual traits and personalities shone. The side cast are pretty brilliant too, one of my favourites being a loyal giant dog-like beast with five legs.
This is my first time reading one of Newman's books but it definitely will not be the last. I will be following this series and reading each entry as soon as I possibly can. The Deathless is dark fantasy, adult in nature yet unlike a lot of recent books in this grimdark era, I found all the point of view characters likable and there is an underlining possibility of hope. It does feature moments of horror, terror, and unpredictability. I believe I am quite attuned to predicting the directions a narrative will take but I was unsuccessful with that venture here which makes the reading experience for me much fuller and more enjoyable. This story really pulled at my emotions and my heartstrings. Once I was a quarter of the way through and used to the writing style, which is excellent - Newman has a voice that is extremely addictive to read, I found this novel really difficult to put down. Newman has composed a stunning tale with The Deathless. Unpredictable drama tinged with moments of horror and featuring the sort of grotesque creatures you wouldn't want to meet late at night. Not forgetting The Deathless who are almost like superheroes with their armour, power, influence, and immortality. There was so much to enjoy here and it's a book I'll be thinking about for a long time. This is essentially a tale of two babies and I can't begin to predict what will happen next - but I can't wait.
8.8 / 10 -- James Tivendale
In a world overgrown with dark forest, known ominously as the wilds, only the immortal Deathless can hold evil at bay and protect the innocent from the vile and ravenous daemons that stalk amongst the trees.
The Deathless patrol their lands in floating crystal castles, propelled by the same nature defying magic that gives continued life to their souls. They transfer bodies when they age, making each dynasty everlasting. There are seven of them, each defined by a crystal which is the emblem of their house. They make their armour and weapons from it, shaping spears, plate and wings that allow them to fly over the wilds and hunt the creatures that dwell within. It is the only time they truly feel alive in an eternity of murderous house politics.
Newman vividly creates a place of darkness, despair and absolute horror within the wilds. For those that are not immortal, it is a place of dread and the very essence of a nightmare. The sections of the plot that were set there evoked a distinctively eerie feeling overshadowed by the presence of something malignant and rotting. I loved it. It felt like something Lovecraft would have devised. There are, no doubt, more strange horrors lurking within just waiting for the right opportunity to strike down a Deathless immortal (if he can escape away from the life of plotting, scheming and politics.)
There are three main point of view characters, each of which provides a distinct voice that helps to establish the working of this intricately crafted fantasy universe. And it is a fine one. It hasn’t given all the answers away, as some books do far too early, but instead throws you straight into the action. It begins with an assassination attempt, the aftermath of which pushes the plot forward for the rest of the book. Vasin, Pari and Chand (the POVs) all become preoccupied with surviving the ramifications of the blood bath, and, naively, begin to push the real threat to the back of their minds.
However, the mysterious enemy appears to be far more complex than the characters suppose them to be. They see only evil in the wilds, though I think there is far more at play. Newman leaves just enough suggestions to hint at something different entirely. Where did they come from? Who are these creatures? These are questions I asked myself as I saw into the mind of the Deathless, immortals that appear noble and flawless, but are not as perfect as they pretend to be. I think the origins of the daemons are somehow interlinked with the magic of the immortals. Time will tell.
The Deathless is but a peek into the vastness of this new fantasy world. I feel like I’ve only seen a fraction of what is to come. There are more Deathless dynasties to introduce which will, no doubt, come with more in-fighting and political backstabbing. Everybody seems to be making a bid for power. Roll on book two!
8.7 / 10 -- Sean Barrs
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