The Blighted City by Scott Kaelen
To challenge the gods is to invite their wrath.So it is written of Lachyla, the Blighted City, in the Codex of the Ages. But who reads codices? And who really believes the tall stories of the Taleweavers?
Kaelen has weaved wonder with this one.
Three fleeblades accept a quest to enter an abandoned city and retrieve a burial stone. Despite the death’s head symbol imprinted on every known map of the place, the freeblades set out confident in their skills and experience, planning to bring the stone home for a hefty payment. Things go sour very quickly, and the freeblades soon realise the reasons for the city’s desertion as they become embroiled in its histories. This is all I can give you without spoiling the gorgeous experience of this novel.
Initially, I plodded along with this, failing to connect with the plot or the characters. But, in a true fantasy slow-burn fashion, Kaelen dribbled subtle taunts into his prose, eked out the personalities of the characters, and teased me with lore until I was utterly engrossed, and desperately in love with the characters.
Kaelen uses the perspective of three different groups to expand our perspective, and this worked incredibly well in building tension and foreshadowing. Their differing viewpoints were explored, allowing us to compare and contrast, and to sympathise or condemn as we see fit.
His scene setting was to die for. Entering the city of Lachyla with the trio, I immediately felt the gloom, I could smell the horror, and even taste the dead. His intricate descriptions of the desolation lent a perfect ability to visualise and step into his world.
My only criticism would be the drawn-out ending; I felt things could have been tied up more quickly, and there were a few extraneous moments which could have been removed completely. There was no negative impact to my overall enjoyment of the novel, but I did feel tightening up the ending could have created more of a final impact.
There are some really important questions asked here on enjoying and appreciating life. Would you want to live forever, or for a short, fulfilled, time? On closing the book, I felt mournful and thoughtful in equal measures, and it’s important to remember that when there’s a choice to be made, not everyone decides upon the same path.
I really enjoyed this introduction to Kaelen’s work, and I’m very grateful to have been asked to review this. He hints of other places within the vicinity of Lachyla, and I can only hope we get to see some of these places in the next instalment.