How do you review a classic that has preserved for 20 years? The simple answer is you do not. You remind people of the quality of the work and the sense of the story that Sara Douglass gave us in the first of the Axis Trilogy. Battleaxe was and is still a steadfast epic fantasy novel, no less true now than when it was first released.
Battleaxe provides everything a fantasy reader needs and wants, evil seen and unseen, magic in a variety of forms both overt and obscure, a diversity of races, conflict open and hidden plus a love story, riddled with longing and obstacles.
The story follows a traditional pattern, hero unsure of his path on a journey of self discovery, a destroyer whose own hated does not just consume himself but everything around him, friends and betrayers walk a course of ruin or salvation in a land gripped by winter and madness. You can not really ask for more.
When my review copy arrived, courtesy of the wonderful Jess at Harper Collins AU, I really loved the look of the book, it was simple but elegant, a perfect cover for the 20th Anniversary Edition. Sitting my old, well read paperback (with its image of Axis raising his axe high in the air and Gorgrael behind him) side by side with the new edition I would be hard pressed to say which I liked better… perhaps my original but it does get sentimental bonus points.
I have been a fan of Sara Douglass's work for many years and have read the Axis trilogy quite a few times. It has been a few years since my last read and even now, after all this time and multiple reads, it is still a magnificent tale written wonderfully. There is a simplicity of the characters and world that captivates and shines. Not simple in words, but clear in vision and promise to the reader. Douglass delivers strong emotion from all the characters as they evolve and take on the challenges placed before them. Pride, wrath, love, joy, trust and devolution, each one jumping off the page making you connect with each personality in your own way. Next to Axis, Belial is my favourite character.
There is a reason classics are timeless - they energise and captivate, bringing the reader back for more, time and time again. Sara Douglass's Battleaxe sits up there with the great epic fantasy books of the last 30 to 40 years, easily holding its own against the likes of Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair, Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara and Raymond Feist's Magician. If you have never read Battleaxe, do so now, you won't regret the decision.
Fergus McCartan, 9/10
There was a time in my life where I felt that nothing good would ever come out of Australian entertainment. I was right, and I’ll always be right, as long as I continue to ensure that “Australian entertainment” doesn’t refer to Australian literature. That’s not to say that Australian literature isn’t entertaining, but more to ensure that I am once again right.
That being said, over the past 12 months I have come across several brilliantly talented Australian fantasy authors who really know how to write. If nothing else, it bodes well for me, an aspiring author, that my country can produce fantastical literary talent.
Of those Australian writers one of my favorites is Sara Douglass. Born in South Australia, Sara Douglass was born Sara Warneke, but probably assumed that Warneke wasn’t a name you wanted on the front cover of a book. Her first foray into fantasy was Battleaxe, published in 1995, and the beginning of the Axis Trilogy.
*note* in the USA and most European countries, the Axis Trilogy and the following Wayfarer Redemption trilogy are one six book series. Not so in Australia though, where they are kept in their original separate trilogy status, but obviously linked in content. *note*
Battleaxe starts us off in the world of Achar, where the Acharites devoutly worship Artor the Plough God. This is strikingly expressed through the Acharites fervent hatred for trees, forests, etc, and thus the peoples – though originally related through their ancestors – that live within those forests. It is a brilliantly unique premise, and one that works well for Douglass as the series continues.
Enforcing the will of Artor is the Seneschal, the devout religious fanatics you expect at the top of a religious food chain. Their fighting force is the Axe Wielders. And yes, axes, because that’s how you cut down a tree. Their heritage is that they were the ones that drove the Forbidden out of Achar and lopped down all the forests so they couldn’t stay around.
Our main focus however is a young man named Axis, the leader of the Axe Wielders, and a man who will soon turn out to be much more than he – or anyone else – ever expected.
Douglass manages to keep your attention all through the book, despite jumping perspectives every chapter or so. We are introduced to an intricate cast of characters, one part mortal one part mythical and fated. Characters that you think are nothing more than passing attractions soon become imperative not only to the story itself, but to you. Lesser characters, as is always the case for me at least, make up the large majority of my favorites. I am riveted by what is happening to Timozel, Arne and Belial.
Our lead characters though are just as fascinating, and by the end of Battleaxe you will fall in love with Faraday, and your heart will bleed for the situation she has put herself in. You will hate Borneheld, and it won’t be long into the second book that you’ll start to hate the leaders of the Seneschal as well.
Battleaxe is very much part one of three books, and you are left suitable anticipating the next book. Thankfully, for us at least, the entire trilogy (and sextet) is on shelves somewhere.
Picking up these books is definitely recommended. The writing is easy to follow, and though not as refined as the likes of Hobb and Barclay, is measurably excusable in her first literary outing and normally not distracting.
Joshua S Hill, 8/10
3 positive reader review(s) for Battleaxe
Markus from Australia
As a fond reader of David Eddings and Raymond E Feist, I found the Sara Douglass's Battleaxe series absolutely awesome. Easy to read and very captivating. Couldn't recommend it enough.
Lisa from South Australia
Have just finished it today, I haven't been able to put it down since I started. I love that one of the place names she uses is an actual South Australian town (Tailem Bend). Not used to seeing South Australian references in my fantasy reading!
Janice from Wales, UK
I didn't want to put this book down and started reading it again as soon as I had finished it. Easy to read, easy to follow and can't wait till I get hold of the next book in the trilogy.
9.3/10 from 4 reviews