By Bill Adams
With Vaynex on the brink of civil war, Tempest Claw struggles for peace among his people, many of whom seek vengeance for their lost deity. As the recession grows deeper, one thing remains clear: Tempest will either find common ground with his brethren, or a tomb buried within the sand.
Serenna Morgan struggles in her new role as Guardian leader. With insufficient time to mend the emotional scars from the last Harbinger, she must prepare a scattered team to defend the realm from old enemies reemerging in the South, along with a new divine nemesis scheming in the West.
David Williams finds service to a goddess much like his time as a Guardian: endless and hopeless. With their growing influence infecting every kingdom, he goes rogue for a new purpose:
To create a realm without gods.
Tears of the Maelstrom is the second book in the Legacy of Boulom series by Timothy Wolff and picks up some seven months after the conclusion of the first book, Platinum Tinted Darkness. It’s fair to say that this book is one heck of a follow-up.
In my humble reading opinion, there is nothing better than a well-paced, uncomplicated story with excellent character arcs, interesting concepts, and engaging prose. Bonus points for meddling gods. Anything with meddling gods goes right to the top for me.
After the events of PTD, the Guardian team is left in tatters and it is up to Serenna Morgan to piece it all back together. But the God of Wisdom/Arrogance is scheming to remove free will and create a perfect world, with former-Guardian-now-emperor Francis as his mortal tool, much to his pregnant lover (and former Guardian) Mary’s sigh-happy fears. Zeen’s been knocked out cold since his brush with death and subsequent revival after Strength’s sacrifice, and when he wakes, everything is different, except his loyalty to his friends and his love for Serenna. And David, well, he’s got a lot going on, a lot of reckoning to handle, both with his goddess Fear and his own demons (dare I say his own personal Harbingers???). Which leaves Tempest Claw to carry the load of plot driver (hence why he’s on the cover).
The characters are what really corralled me in the first book and wanted to continue reading their stories. They are fallible, they are brash, they are broken, they are funny & love to snicker, they are glorious! What makes a good story is characters who feel lifelike and Mr. Wolff’s cast is extremely realistic, and like real people, they run the gamut of pessimistic to overly optimistic. Zeen, oh Zeen. This is a character who is so unflappable in his honesty and hopeful outlook that he’s difficult to not like, he’s just so damn good, almost to a fault. On the flip side, David is so broken, so depressed that it’s practically impossible to not root for him, and his plan to make a world without gods comes across as misantropic as it sounds, but he believes it for very human reasons. Francis is still a snob but I absolutely love his inner dialogue (They’re looking at me. I should say something.) and the fact he merely just wants to be loved. Mary, it was great to get more of her perspective, she’s got a vulgar mouth and a strange aversion to cats. Serenna is forever fearful of losing what matters most to her and I love her warring juxtaposition of ‘am I suited to this’ v ‘I must do this’ Guardian role. Tempest had a very intriguing arc, one of loss and of growth as a leader, equally sad and joyful. Won’t lie, at first I was very disappointed in my GLORIOUS zephum Sardonyx as he was pretty much a jerky mcjerkface, but then he turned a corner with an honorable roar and was once again Top Character of 2023.
And because of my appetite for meddling gods, I found this plot more entertaining and arresting than PTD’s because of how these gods’ actions truly affected our cast. Whereas PTD read more like a ‘putting the team together to battle bosses’ type of story, TotM was more reactionary to said boss battles (aka the Harbingers) and the fallout from the gods’ grand schemes. Don’t get me wrong, there are some epic battles, but because the gods are more active in the plot, there is more drama, more tension, more growth, more distrust of former friends. The introduction of almost zombie-like Vanguards by Arrogance was quite a neat concept, especially since the villain of book one, Nyfe (still love that name btw) becomes one, and he still manages to maintain some control of his free will. That said, the climax….top notch and dastardly by Mr. Wolff!
It’s always refreshing to witness an author’s skill level up with each successive book and this clearly happened in this book. Mr. Wolff takes his clean, natural prose from PTD and turns it up to 11 in TotM while still maintaining a consistent read throughout. There is this level of elegance to the dialogue that doesn’t make it feel hokey or shoehorned in to fit the scene. Instead, it feels absolutely relatable and rational to each character, especially since many of the characters are down in the dumps mentally.
Here’s an example:
Serenna leaned down to hold Zeen, letting him clutch her while tears ran down his eyes. “It means nothing to you?” he asked, glaring at Bloom, then Five. “Nothing at all?”
“We all mourn in our own way, Master Zeen. Do not accuse silence of apathy. The true loss is not of the individual, but of the chains of faded love that tighten around those forced to remain.”
There is wisdom in this exchange that hits the exact emotional notes but doesn’t sound out of place or out of character. There are tons of examples of this, and I, for one, am here for this type of prose. I could fill an entire blog with these exceptional turns of phrase, so just go ahead and read the book to see what I mean. The prose is amazing.
There is one really interesting, almost meta concept in this story and it is the use of an in-book book series written by one of the main characters. Lovable Zeen is such a big fan of the Rinso the Blue book series and uses them as inspiration. Turns out, one main character (no spoilers) wrote them, and from then on out, both Zeen and author quote the series. This in itself isn’t wholly original, but Mr. Wolff uses this in-book series as a way to drive the plot or character growth for some characters as well as skewer tropes about books in general (for example they discuss breaking up two lovers again and insert a love triangle and Zeen essentially says that’s a stupid idea to do because it isn’t original). It’s also humorous because most other characters cannot stand the books, constantly criticise them, or just downright laugh at the absurdity of it. I can’t get enough of this concept.
I must also call out the Chapter Titles. Every one has this poetic meaning behind it as they show up in the chapter, and every one is a banger. Seriously want Mr. Wolff to do chapter titles for me.
Tears of the Maelstrom is a smashing sequel and I cannot wait to get the conclusion of this series next year.
About the Reviewer
When not writing, Bill is a product manager for a company that tests food using analytical chemistry and microbiology.
During his time at Indiana University, he began to develop his passion for writing, especially within the fantasy genre. It was there, he began to formulate the story that would eventually become The The Divine Godsqueen Coda.
Aside from writing, Bill loves movies and TV shows, especially geek stuff or fantasy. He likes to know all the useless trivia like who played who, and what the stories were behind the curtain. He is a master at Scene It. Bill’s few other hobbies include soccer, a good whiskey, a slice of pizza, and growing a beard. It is the little things he enjoys most.
Bill currently lives in the greater Chicago, IL area with his wife and young son.