A wonderful fantasy epic filled with plenty of action and magic
Zack Argyle’s Voice of War is a finalist in the 2020 edition of SPFBO, and it’s easy to see why. Tight writing and tense action combine to make for an epic fantasy that reads very quick. Be ready for a cliffhanger of an ending, though. There’s a lot more to come in this series.
I’m not sure what I expected when I opened up Voice of War. Maybe a dark fantasy adventure. What I got was the opening salvo in what is sure to be an epic series filled with magic and action. But perhaps what stood out the most for me was the role that family played in this story. So often, in epic fantasy especially, family plays little to no role. The hero is an orphan. The hero’s parents are killed in chapter one. The hero is estranged from her parents. Perhaps there is a love interest for the hero, but they aren’t married. They do not have children. They aren’t “tied down by family” - and make no mistake, that’s the impression so much of epic fantasy gives, that family is an anchor that keeps one from adventuring. But in Voice of War family plays an important role for each of the viewpoint characters. Chrys is married and about to become a father. Laurel, while filling the typical orphan role, still has family and attachments, even if she wants to adventure.
Family plays a role for other characters as well. Argyle has done an excellent job of bucking the invisible family trend in fantasy. In fact, in some ways, family becomes one of the central themes of the book, often guiding the decisions of characters and moving the plot along. I loved this aspect of the novel. On top of this, the magic in this story is interesting and cinematic in equal degrees. There are layers of mystery that I can’t wait to read the payoffs for. On top of this, there are plenty of interesting twists to the plot that keep you engaged for the duration. Whether you enjoy a fantasy story for the plot, for the magic, or for its themes, I think you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Voice of War.
I do have a few criticisms of the book as a whole, but most of these relate to it being the obvious first book in a series. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but as a result I felt like it took a while for the characters to click. I enjoyed reading the book from the very beginning, but I didn’t feel like I related to the characters or really felt for them until well into the second half of the novel. I prefer to have that feeling much earlier in the novel, but then I’m also one for character stories. The characters do come together toward the end, and that bodes very well for subsequent novels. I have one or two other nitpicky sort of criticisms. For instance, there is an instance when a baby’s bones are referred to as brittle. This is just factually incorrect. Baby’s bones have a different composition than adult bones, which results in them being more bendy or flexible than adult bones. Bones generally become more brittle later in life. This is a small thing, and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment much, but it was frustrating.
Voice of War is a wonderful fantasy epic filled with plenty of action and magic. With family as a major theme, it charts a unique course for itself among other fantasy offerings. This one is certainly worth your time, especially if you enjoy magic with your epic fantasy. A cliffhanger of an ending has me salivating for the next installment.
Review by Calvin Park
8.6/10 from 1 reviews
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