Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar: Review and Interview


Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?

Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.

Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.

Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?

Why was he the only one who cared?


Objective Score (Amazon and Goodreads): 5/5

TL;DR: Legacy of Brightwash exceeded my expectations, and I was already hyped for it. It’s a beautiful and horrific book that isn’t afraid to defy genres and go its own path. The prose and character work is able to hold its own in any company. Slow and burning all the way down like a fine scotch, this one will stay with you for awhile.

Subjective Score (Personal Tastes): 96/100

Pros for me:

The characters are an absolute joy.

The parent aspect of it really spoke to me.

The setting is so well realized it hurts.

The stakes are so high.

Cons for me: I loved this book so I have to be nitpicky

I’m thinking this is gonna happen in book 2, but there are characters I thought/think are up to no good that haven’t betrayed anyone yet.

Though I understand why, there are some characters that are absent in the second part of the book I wish we had kept up with.

Ok. Those were sort of dumb cons. If you don’t like slowburns, you may wanna watch out.

Long Story:

I’m gonna preface this by saying, “wow.” This book is something else. I had seen praise for it all over the internet, but it took awhile for me to get to it. I am so glad I did.

A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I actually read more Literary Fiction than fantasy. This hits those same notes. The profundity. The socio-political themes. The intrigue. The deep character work. And yes, the beautifully slow moving plot.

There are so many sights and smells and tastes and feelings in this book. The vivid description of life in Yaelsmuir is intoxicating, and I found myself continuously wanting to get back to it. There is just so much that works in this book.

This is the sort of book that sneaks up on you. The kind of book where it is very easy to lose yourself to the flow of words and plot and how it all tangles together. Krystle Matar’s prose and characters shine through the dimly-lit streets of the Dominion, and it makes every twist and turn hurt all that much more.

First, I’ve got to say, I heard this book would break me, and it’s probably the closest I’ve been to broken over a book since The Road by Cormac McCarthy. There was one moment when I was listening to the audiobook on the way home from work that I could feel the tears starting to form, and I just barely held it together.

From the moment in Day 1 where we are introduced to Tashúe and get to see who he is and what he’s about, I knew I was reading something special. Even the meandering plot, one that switches focus between characters and events from the loosely connected to the essential, kept me focused and wanting more. I didn’t care if they were only baking or drinking good (or bad whiskey) or fighting or whatever. These characters were my people, and I loved them for every moment good and bad.

I love that it defies easy classification and that it alternates between the soft and charming and the gritty and unspeakable. That’s what makes it feel so true.

I can’t wait until I’m back in the Dominion learning and breaking and healing with Tashúe and the others.

In some ways, these characters feel realer than some people I’ve met. In others, I feel like I know the Dominion better than some countries I’ve been to. This book will challenge you and make you question just what about our own reality are we ignoring?

All that being said, this book has a lot of heartbreak and trauma, so don’t go in with a faint heart!

Will I read other works by this author?

I honestly can’t wait!

My Interview with Krystle Matar

Thank you so much for agreeing to do this! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work! One of the things I really loved about the Dominion and how you developed it is how “lived in” it feels. I felt like I knew places and cultural touchstones from the conversations between characters and offhanded mentions in the narration. I guess my question is how much of the history of this place do you have down and does it exist in any other format for you (like dnd or other ttrpg)? I really got Blades in the Dark vibes a couple times.

K: Thank you! The answer is that, for now, it only lives in my head and my way old worldbuilding documents. I started writing about the Dominion probably 10 years ago now, and when I started it was more of a “rise of the farmboy” type fantasy. Long story short, I got stuck with that book a lot and abandoned it in favour of telling Tashué’s story, but I didn’t want to leave the idea behind completely, so I hit “fast forward” on the history and jumped to a more advanced era (approximately 1890 in our historical equivalent.) That way, all that lore I built for the North Star and the Ash Child could be used as a part of the history of the Dominion. I’ll go back one day and write it, I think!

Similarly, the prose just sort of helped me float along through the story (not unlike certain somethings in the Brightwash). How much of the plot did you know before you started? Did you make any key changes you could tell us about?

K: In that aforementioned switch, I knew Tashué’s story would have echoes of the books I used to write about him. Before he was in the Dominion, I wrote a few (really bad) cop novels about him being a homicide detective. A key theme for his stories has always been his struggles with being a decent father + a desire to protect the innocent, so it only seemed right to pull that feeling into the Dominion.

As far as changes, I think the finished project of Brightwash ended up more political than I imagined when I was setting out. I didn’t think I was capable of writing a story that had so many twisting threads, but that’s because I hadn’t yet discovered the joy/suffering of revision! I draft very messy and chaotic, and then sharpen it into a finer point as I go. So, Illea played a MUCH bigger role than I was envisioning when she first walked onto the page. Nathaniel Wolfe became the Mayor so that I could show the beginning of that maneuvering.

Also, in early drafts, Stella died. But that version of the story was too heavy and I didn’t enjoy working on it anymore. It felt like too much misery through every thread of the plot, and I was losing my passion for the project overall. So I figured out how to save her, and in so saving her, she became so much more vibrant and present, bringing a beacon of hope to Tashué’s life. And I think that’s reflective of me as a person, and it will be reflective of the series as a whole; no matter how bleak things may be, no matter how many times we stumble and fall, it’s our capacity to love one another that will save us. Whether that’s familial love, romantic love, the love of friendship, it doesn’t matter. We save each other.

What’s next for you? I hear we haven’t seen the last of Tashúe and Co.

K: We don’t see the last of him for a while, hopefully! I have been working on LEGACY OF BRICK & BONE, the immediate followup to Brightwash, and while I do that, I’ve also been considering the beats I want the whole series to hit. When I drafted the first messy attempts at Brightwash, the intention was always “just the one book before I start The War™” but that draft has about three books in it. I thought I was drafting a book, but the reality is I was outlining a trilogy! And then, once things are settled (or not) in Yaelsmuir, there’s the fallout of everything… And of course my mind spins off into ideas for books that stand alone. I intend to be publishing books for a good long time now!

Rapid fire round!

Shout out a Twitter friend:

K: OH MAN BUT I HAVE SO MANY FRIENDS!! Okay, under pressure, I have to shoutout to Michael Fletcher @/FletcherMR because he’s been so incredibly helpful when he didn’t have to be. For some reason or another, he read Brightwash early in the book’s launch and has been an inexhaustible well of support, shouting about me to anyone who will listen. AND he also has been helping me sort out the miserable mess that was B&B. I owe that man a gallon or two of whisky. One might say a Bucket of it.

Favorite Indie Book(s):

K: Another hard question! I adored HIS RAGGED COMPANY by Rance D Denton. It was delightfully brutal but also beautiful. Well done, Rance!

Who is an artist/creator we should all be watching?

K: Can I say all of them? I think Clayton Snyder is on the rise. He really seems to be catching his stride lately and I’m excited to watch him grow. BLACKTHORNE is his latest release and it’s now a quarter-finalist with SPSFC (aka SPACEBO.) GO CLAYTON!!

In a future where entire books could be recorded into the flavor of a Whiskey, what would Brightwash taste and smell like? Bonus points if you can price the bottle.

K: Well, I had been writing about Tashué for 18 years before Brightwash was published, so let’s say it’s been aged that long. I would have to do a Canadian rye base, since Yaelsmuir was based on Montreal and the land around it is very eastern Ontario/western Quebec. And Tashué has always been a smoker, so maybe it was aged in Islay casks to capture a lot of that smoky peat aroma even though it’s Canadian at heart. Canadian rye doesn’t go as expensive as aged Scotch does so I bet it would be about $150. And it would pack a punch XD