“Handshakes are a dangerous business in some parts of the world.” This quote from Along the Razor’s Edge stuck with me, though Hayes meant it in a different light than how it pertains to most of us in this Covidic world right now. Still, it was no less deadly, as it turns out.
Our protagonist in this novel, Eskara Helsene, is quite the anti-heroine. She’s one of the world’s most powerful battle sorcerers, yet as our story gets underway, she’s as helpless as a baby mouse, and not much bigger.
See, Eskara was on the losing side in a great war and through her defeat by treachery, she has lost access to her power Sources and has been cast into the Pit, where thousands of “scabs” toil alongside her in their unending task of digging. Digging deeper and farther, and to what end no one knows.
Of course, it’s not that simple. There are politics and power plays amongst the prisoners. The strong rise to the top of the weak and the downtrodden. Simple things such as food and snuff and favors are bartered and stolen between the prisoners. There is no hope of release or redemption, just the day to day hell underground of digging and surviving.
Until Eska meets a “crazy” old man that has strange ideas and an ear for whistling wind. A plot is hatched, and through the first-person account from Eska herself we see how that all progresses. And more often than not, ends in shit.
Hayes uses a brilliant method of telling Eska’s tale. While we’re set in her first-person narrative at her age of 15 to 16, we are getting constant snippets of her story from other times. Flashbacks to her childhood and training at the Academy, along with her friendship with friend and companion Josef, and their actions during the war give us lots of backstory intrigue to build on.
“It’s just as important to tailor a truth to the audience, as it is a lie.”
We also get a good bit of foreshadowing, where the “old” Eska is throwing little intrigues and hints of what’s to come many years from our main story. It’s clear that Eska is telling this story from a perspective of an older woman looking back at her youth, both her mistakes and her triumphs. She gives us great insight on her own regrets and understanding of how she became what she is in later life. These little hints entice the reader by showing that Eska won’t be in this Pit hell forever, and she has quite the climb to power ahead of her, and perhaps some setbacks along the way. This isn’t a spoiler in the context of her story – it’s obvious she survives the Pit as she’s telling us about it. But these little tidbits give us a real teaser for the next two books in the trilogy.
Along the Razor’s Edge isn’t the first book I’ve read by Rob J. Hayes, and it certainly won’t be the last. Without giving anything away, I will say that this book is satisfying in the fact that it completes a story arc in Eska’s life, but the way Hayes brings it all about makes me want to rush out and get the next one.
Buy Along the Razor’s Edge by Rob J. Hayes