REVIEW: The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

In The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan, our protagonist Helena, Vonvalt, and his retainers travel from Galen’s Vale to the empire’s capital of Sova to unravel the pit of treachery it has become. Old mentors and leaders, and some of the very most senior justices in Vonvalt’s Order of Magistrates must be cut from the body of the empire, lest they poison if further. And if the treachery and intrigue and action stopped there this would still be a very good book. But because it’s a fucking great book, it doesn’t stop there.

Cover for The Tyranny of Fair by Richard SwanThe Tyranny of Faith has a little something for every kind of dark fantasy fan. Intrigue, political manoeuvring, necromancy and other vicious magics used for both good and evil, small personal vicious fights and epic battles, and brilliantly well-fleshed out characters on all sides of the story. As we travel to Sova and experience something akin to the halls of Rome in Gladiator and then to the frontier fortress of Keraq which reminded me so much of Kingdom of Heaven, we are treated to a brutal, intensely personal, at times darkly funny (in an Abercrombie way), story about the collapse of the empire, and the degradation of the people who try to prop it up.

In The Tyranny of Faith Helena follows her mentor Vonvalt and his retinue into danger. Helena as a character is excellent and well thought out. She is principled as only the young can be, and her journey of starting to see the world and the people around her more realistically against the principles she thought they stood for is a riveting one. Her relationships with the three men in her party are well fleshed out, with each playing a role in her growth throughout, while also going through their own pain and growth in return.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the early stages of The Tyranny of Faith is how Swan’s history as a lawyer shines through in showcasing how the Order of Magistrates works. How people talk, what they value, and what drives them shines through in the way only authors with lived experience seem to manage. I’m not sure if it’s my own white collar career upbringing in what’s essentially project management kicking in here, but seeing the workings of a place like that–that isn’t the standard senate setting that’s in plenty of books–just makes me happy at this age. That and logistics, which Swan also seems to consider beyond a surface level throughout his books, really just add nice depth and nuance to the world.

As a book two in a series, The Tyranny of Faith is almost perfect. In my eyes it’s a slightly better book than The Justice of Kings (which I’m pretty sure I five-starred, so this is awkward) and it doesn’t rely on heavy clumsy exposition to remind you of all the things in book one that matter to book two. Swan ramps up the stakes throughout the story presented in the pages of The Tyranny of Faith, and also makes damned sure that just about every reader is going to be chomping at the bit for book three to land. Try as I might, I actually don’t have a negative word to say about it.

The Tyranny of Faith is an absolutely unputdownable read. Swan ramps up the awesomeness of The Justice of Kings by giving readers more of what we loved in book one, and then building on it in book two. The emotional hits are harder, the action is bloodier, the magic out of control, and the stakes just keep going up as the tens of millions of people in The Empire of the Wolf are set up to be torn down.

5/5

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.