When I started Off the Grid, I said that one Wednesday a month will be allocated to a self-published work. This month's pick goes to Gabby Gilliam, who wanted talk about Sins of a Sovereignty by Plague Jack, which I might add, was one of the final picks in Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off.
Review: Sins of a Sovereignty by Gabby Gilliam
Don’t let the author’s strange pen name fool you. Sins of a Sovereignty is an indie book worth your time. Plague Jack delivers a richly detailed world and a cast of characters who are all fatally flawed, and all the more enjoyable for their imperfections.
In the first installment of The Amernia Fallen series, we learn that Amernia has suffered through two different wars and the scars from both have created the world Jack throws us into. The Rose Rebellion expelled Vaetorian conquerors from the realm and isn’t focused on quite so heavily as the war that led to the subjugation of the sub-human races. The Green War, begun when Prince Darius attempted to usurp the throne, leaves the northern party of the country uninhabitable after a poisonous gas is unleashed on it population. Once Prince Darius has been defeated, the non-human citizens such as elves, dwarves, and gilnoids, are treated with open hostility and disdain by the human residents of Armenia.
There are five main characters, and we learn each slowly as the book progresses. None of them are inherently good or evil. They are multifaceted, personalities shaped by their experiences, and all the more real because of it. If I had to choose one character to label as the protagonist, I might pick Clark Pendragon, though each of the others can make an equal argument to the claim of main character. Pendragon is a veteran of both of Amernia’s recent wars. In most of the country, he is considered a hero. He helped the queen thwart Prince Darius’ attempts to usurp the throne and was responsible for the poisonous gas strike on the north. He does not consider himself to be heroic, and is plagued with guilt for his past actions.
Calcifer is a young elf that has suffered since the Green War like the other fae. He loves his sister deeply and incestously, and will go to any length to protect her. He has been chosen by the god Cambrian to collect the souls of those who abuse the power he has gifted them. These hellions wield great magic, and Calcifer has been tasked with capturing their souls to return them to Cambrian. His role has earned him the moniker The Bottler, for the vessel in which he stores the captured souls of those he has vanquished.
The Blood Queen, Minerva, at first appears to be selfish and ruthless, intent on maintaining her power regardless of cost. However, as the book progresses, we also come to see her as very intelligent as well as brave, having survived the assassination of her husband, and attempts on her own life. She truly wants what is best for her country and her people though her methods may not be the most agreeable.
Shrike is a surly dwarf who also happens to be the Queen’s Spymaster and one of the most dangerous men in all of Amernia. His network of spies misses nothing, and the dwarf is likely the most knowledgeable being in the kingdom. Not even the Queen has access to all of his secrets.
And then there’s Duchess Veronica Evrill. She wants to unite the races of Amernia and end the subjugation of the non-humans. She offers sanctuary to those that escape persecution in the larger cities. And yet, it is she that helped develop the deadly weapon that left the north uninhabitable. Her benevolence can be seen as penance.
Amernia is a land of knights and swords, but also magicians, inventors, and steampunk-esque technology. It is a pleasant clash of the modern and medieval. It is a land plagued by memories of war and injustice. The characters are well-developed, and I found myself loving them and hating them at various points throughout the novel. You are left not knowing who is a hero and who is a villain, as each character has moments where they appear to be both. It is grimdark fantasy at its grittiest with the dark scenes so well-written you will find yourself both disgusted and enraptured at the same time.
Plague Jack continues The Amernia Fallen series in The Wild War which was published in October 2015.
About the Reviewer: Gabby Gilliam has been reading way past her bedtime since she learned how to read. She can get lost in almost any story as long as its well-written, though fantasy is probably her favorite genre. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four year old son, who is the best storyteller she knows. You can find more of her reviews at From Notebook to Notebook.