REVIEW: Wraithbound by Tim Akers

Wraithbound presents a world that is literally coming apart at the seams. Reality-warping elemental Chaos is only barely restrained by monumental, magically-infused barricades. The fortunate and affluent live deep within the Ordered Lands, while those less privileged are relegated to the outer borders, suffering the corrosive influence of the roiling Chaos just outside the walls. As the creators and maintainers of the so-called “orderwalls,” the mages of the Iron College have become a prominent pillar of society. Known as spiritbinders, these mages interweave a portion of their souls with an elemental spirit, gaining power over that spirit’s domain. Each spiritbinder dedicates themselves to a single element. Air, water, fire, and stone are some common choices, while others form pacts with more abstract entities, such as manifestations of law or life. Rumors also exist of renegade spiritbinders who entangle themselves with darker entities, such as demons or the souls of the deceased. With the continued survival of civilization at stake, the Iron College has established the justicars, a ruthless security force tasked with both policing the ranks of the spiritbinders and also hunting down unsanctioned “feral” mages operating outside the strictures of the College.

Cover for Wraithbound by Tim AkersYoung Rae Kelthannis finds his comfortable lifestyle turned upside down when his father, a minor weather-controlling stormbinder in the employ of Baron Hadroy, becomes entangled in a justicar-led purge of heretical magic. The Kelthannis family flee to the edge of civilization, eking out a meager life in the shadow of an orderwall. Despite the risk of justicar scrutiny, after a miserable decade of self-exile Rae gives in to the temptation to follow in his father’s footsteps. He attempts a spiritbinding of his own, using his father’s fractured sword as a focus for the magic. Instead of joining with a minor air elemental as intended, he finds his spirit entwined with something much more treacherous: a wrathful soul from the realm of the dead. This disastrous summoning has lethal consequences for Rae’s loved ones, and he immediately finds himself pursued by both justicars and an even more implacable foe: a brutal mage encased in a mechanical suit. To survive, Rae will have to come to grips with both his father’s hidden past and his dangerous new spiritbound partner.

Wraithbound is an epic fantasy where magic takes center stage. The various types of spiritbinding and their myriad manifestations are examined in intriguing detail, providing fun daydream fodder to readers and making this book an easy recommendation to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s intricate magic systems. Command of elements like fire and water are common enough in fantasy stories, but Rae’s tumultuous alliance with the wraith is both fresh and compelling. Rae is reckless and untrained, while the wraith bristles at being compelled into servitude. With the wraith seeking ever more control over his earthly host’s body, the reader is given the sense that Rae has caught a tiger by the tail. He requires his deathly companion’s dark assistance if he is to live to see another day, but the wraith’s agenda and Rae’s own are often at odds.

Wraithbound is also rich with layered mystery. Although it’s given away in the title, Rae doesn’t discover the true nature of his bound spirit until the halfway point of the book. The actual identity of the wraith isn’t revealed until much later. The role of Rae’s father in the magical catastrophe that has come to be known as the Hadroy Heresy and the ultimate goal of Rae’s pursuers are also crucial parts of the puzzle he must solve. I felt clever whenever one of my suppositions turned out to be correct, and absorbed even further into the narrative with every unexpected twist. Akers keeps the reader guessing.

Promoted as the first book in The Spiritbinder Sage, Wraithbound concludes with some tantalizing hints about the future direction of the series. However, prospective readers can rest assured that Wraithbound provides a self-contained tale with a proper ending, rather than merely a fraction of the story with an arbitrary or abrupt conclusion.

Much like Rae himself, the reader is whisked from one danger to the next, with very few pauses to rest. Rae’s perilous journey takes him far beyond the Ordered Lands and into the Chaos-infested wilderness, the skies, and even the shadowy land of the dead. Fast-paced and packed with cinematic magical duels, Wraithbound is an exhilarating ride from start to finish.

Read Wraithbound by Tim Akers

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Robin Marx

Robin Marx

Born in Spain and raised in the United States, Robin Marx has lived in Japan for more than two decades. He works in the video game industry, handling localization and international licensing. In addition to over a dozen video games, his writing has appeared in a number of role-playing game supplements. He lives with his wife and their two daughters. You can link up with Robin over at: https://mastodon.social/@RobinMarx