The fantasy genre seems to have hit a sort of plateau, most of the great series are winding up or in a holding pattern (I am talking to you A Song of Ice and Fire) and it has been a bit of a struggle to find something fresh and exciting. Most fantasy or Sci-Fi books tend to repeat the similar themes over and over and over again. It’s almost started to mirror Hollywood, as the same story or premise is just beaten into the ground, leaving me not even wanting to crack open a book or kindle. So when Tor (my absolute favorite publisher of Fantasy novels) reached out to me to check out a couple of new books I immediately jumped at the chance. The really hard part was pick which books to start reading. All I had to make my decision was the a brief synopsis of the story and that was it. There was no recommendation ratings. Only my gut, but one book did stand out to me. Here is what I read:
The fourth book in Scholes’ critically acclaimed Psalms of Isaak series follows our heroes across a wide range of lands and obstacles. A beautiful combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia, The Psalms of Isaak series is one of the best reviewed currently still ongoing. With the final book releasing next year, this is a perfect time to start the series if you are new, or catch up if you’ve wandered.
As you can see this isn’t a quest for a magic sword or kids trying to ride a dragon. I was instantly drawn in by the focus on the complexity of the plots within plots in this post-apocalyptic world. Requiem is the forth book of the very entertaining and critically lauded series Psalms of Issak. Like in most penultimate books in a series, action and resolution take a back seat to heightening the suspense and questions that will be answered in final book. I think that I was pretty fortunate to start the Psalms of Isaak at this book as it instantly put me at the most critical junction in the series while leaving me wide open to fully explore the previous episodes of the story before the release of the final book. In my mind it was the perfect point to get hooked. As evidence, I received this book in late August and I am writing the review in October. The reason for this was that I HAD to read the story from the beginning including Requiem one more time.
Requiem continues the story of Jin Li Tam, General Rudolfo, Neb and Petronus. I would be doing you a disservice if I try and describe the plot of the fourth book. Lets just leave it that some questions are answered as more are posed with new and even more dangerous foes appear whose intentions are far from clear. It is fitting that the front cover has a maze design. It is as if the author, Ken Scholes was trying to warn me that this was not going to be story with an easy resolution at the end and boy was he right. To add to the feeling of disorientation, the story is presented in a series of short Point of View scenes featuring each one of the characters. Giving you the sense that you are experiencing the plot and surprises right along the character as well as ensuring that the reader does not know what is coming up next.
What caught my eye at first was that this was not your run of the mill “Middle Earth”, and it isnt about mindlessly fighting some ultimate evil. The Psalms of Issac tends focus less on black and white and more one characters who action are more grey. Yes, there are good guys and bad, but in the end they each strive to do what they think is right of what the “must” do. This is then wrapped in layer and layer of political maneuvering that would make the U.S. Congress and Senate blush. While I am not ashamed to say that I love a large amount of dumb, action movie like fighting and battles, I will have to admit that I was more enthralled with all the subtle backstabbing and chess like moves. Scholes tends to describe many of these scenes with all the tension and drama as if they were actual battles being fought on the field.
In addition, I really love the Sci-Fi element that has been sprinkled through out the book, remember that this a post apocalyptic world with remnants from those prior generations constantly being found. It was as if the author was given the challenge to write a Fantasy novel but must include talk Robots. At first glance you might think that this was crazy, but some how Scholes just makes it work. Even more obscure pieces of technology are strewn through out the novel. Since there is no longer any knowledge of what happened in the past any relic is treated with the reverence of a Rosetta stone or dead sea scroll.
in order to really get a full measure of the book you need to reach the series let me give you a bit about each book:
Lamentation: The first book of the series sets the scene for the entire story. A city is wiped out by some mysterious weapon. This city was the seat of the Androfrancines, who were a mix between monks and archaeologist. They were the keepers of all knowledge of the past who governed how and who used that information. Ad-mist their destruction a number of factions attempt to take advantage of circumstances in order to gain or maintain power. This is all being done as the lone survivor of the city’s destruction attempts to pull himself together and ultimately finds himself in the middle and alongside all the action that follows.
Canticle: The follow up books expands the world created in Lamentation, no longer is it just a battle between just two factions. Characters start to begin to journey outside of the lands described in Lamentation and further detail is given about what happened to the old world before the apocalypse destroyed everything.
Antiphon: This is where the series truly goes into the Sci-Fi world. Scholes ups the stakes with space ships and flight, while the plot take the old adage “Nothing is as it seams” and takes it to the next level. After reading Requiem first, I really wanted to read Antiphon as it finally allowed me to pull together all the different plots and extremely intricate machinations. Antiphon was my favorite book of the series so far.