PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

The first of a high fantasy pentalogy, Duskfall begins the saga of the Chaos Queen, taking us into a world of matriarchal religions, psychic assassins, mysterious monks, and fanatical fundamentalism.

The story is largely focused on Knot, an amnesiac warrior with a mysterious past, and Winter, a young woman of the tiellan (elf) underclass. After they eventually encounter the likes of Cinzia and Jane – sisters who are respectively a priestess and heretic – and snarky vampire girl Astrid, a mismatched fellowship eventually forms and embarks upon a lengthy journey to search for answers both personal and universal about the dark days that are soon to dawn.

Before the group comes together, they each begin their own stories that reveal more of the world at large, and by extension each of their places in it. Although it seems that the group formed by chance, there is the feeling that their positioning and actions are guided by the manipulation of some unseen hand, as though each character is merely a piece in some cosmic game of chess, the extent of which is yet to be revealed.

There are more than a few echoes of Jason Bourne in Knot’s characterisation, from his introduction as an amnesiac found floating half-dead in the sea to his possession of instinctive and lethal combat skills and intrinsic understanding of tactical situations without knowing where that experience comes from. Also, like Matt Damon’s super spy, the revelation of what happened to him is only part of the story.

Some of the explanations of magic mechanics and world history are thrust in at slightly jarring moments, the necessity of their explanation taking precedence over any finesse with which they could have been introduced, in particular with Winter’s developing abilities. That she requires a drug to access her latent psychokinetic powers prevents them from being a ready solution to any given problem, and the narcotic’s scarcity and addictiveness present an added danger every time she wants break out her mental tendrils. As the book progresses her swiftly escalating addiction becomes first a hindrance and then a liability, the justifications with which she deludes herself of her dependence mirroring those of real-world people with substance abuse problems.

Being the first of a planned series of five, Duskfall is read with the implied understanding that there won’t be much in the way of ultimate resolution at its culmination, and in this regard it performs as expected. Leaving people not knowing exactly what just happened and making them wait a year to find out might not seem like the most intuitive way to begin a novel series, but after everything has fallen into place it leaves the reader eager to discover how things are going to develop.


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