All the Waywards have Fallen…
After a mission against the Royal Vampiric Court goes wrong, all Waywards are slaughtered.
All except one.
Davion, the last surviving member, must consume potions to mask himself and hide amongst the people who killed his brethren. After a decade of living this double life, Davion resigned to his new purgatory. But all will not remain calm for him or the Court.
An unknown swordsman arrives, and after killing several Royal Vampires, a rumor spreads that he’s searching for anyone still belonging to The Wayward order.
Davion decides he must track down this mysterious swordsman. But will finding him bring freedom or his demise?
The Fear of Moncroix by Bryan Asher was the first SPFBO9 book I bought. Book covers sell, and this one by artist Christian Angel is beautiful. Okay, to the words! Fear of the Moncroix gave me immediate Castlevania Symphony of the Night (video game) meets the Witcher vibes. The story covers a series of vampire courts, witches, and werewolves vying for control and power within the world Mr. Asher created. In this book, the werewolves are not prominent as it’s a conspiracy between vampire courts and the few Waywards (guardians) left in the world. As the reader starts the first chapter, the vampires control the land via a shadow government/cabal using humans as unknown cattle allowed to live their lives as usual, unknowingly picked apart for food for their vampire overlords. Waywards are a group of protectors/guardians for humans who have been nearly wiped out of existence.
“The magic of this town is truly splendid.”
I pictured most of the main characters wearing some form of a mixture of 17th or 18th-century clothes, slightly dapper yet functional leather, silk, and cotton ready for battle or a night on the town. Like I said, the entire book felt slick to me, everyone, beautiful yet cold and deadly, and I loved it. I mean Royal Vampire Court, it has to be like that, laughter of the beautiful people in a mansion with candles, fine wines, brandy and the like.
The book is sharp (like a vampire’s teeth) and focuses on four characters: Davion, the last surviving Wayward, and Carneth, a human with several abilities and training of a Wayward. There is also a witch, Peregrine, and Tassia, a member of the vampire court. There are more, but attention fell to these four in total.
The world-building is short and sharp and left me wanting more. I don’t know enough about the world surrounding Moncroix, and it left me eager to follow up and see what more would be available about the world Mr. Asher created.
The book’s mood brought images of southern-like forests and swamps. I could feel the damp, humid air in the scenes with castles, the warmth and moisture on the stones. The atmosphere always felt dark, swampy, and full of decay. Trees with long branches and flowing arms, stone castles, and large mansions where vampires and their minions walk and talk in Aaron Sorkin-like scenes.
“I hope you enjoy this grandeur while it lasts.”
The Fear of Moncroix is short; from what my research brought up, I want to know more about the lore and world-building if further written in this world that Mr. Ashner created, and in the last pages, there are hints of more to come.
One of my favorite fight scenes is between Tassia, a member of the vampire court, and the witch Peregrine. It has natural magic and an almost acrobatic feel to some action scenes. To give it a nice metaphor, it felt like a nice boss fight in an action RPG, with flashes of small movements and big power moves, reactions to those moves, and some slight banter as the scene shifted.
I tend to devour books, sometimes missing some of the details and facts I need, and will go back and reread sections. I read this book quickly as the prose was clean and fluid enough that I didn’t feel I needed to backpedal. My reading speed and ability to finish it quickly is a commentary on myself here, but I think this shows the work of Mr. Asher put to paper is crisp yet detailed prose. There were enough elements and metaphors to give a good fantasy feel but nothing overbearing or complicated where I had to slow down like in some epic fantasy. The words continued to guide me into moving forward with the story. The book should be read by candlelight with a glass of spirited wine near at hand.
For fantasy tropes, I felt that the drinks and food gave some of the darker characters a human side, yet the idea of each bite contained blood inside as the vampire savored their drinks or dinners. I often wondered how the kitchens operated, preparing the courses for the vampires. An interesting description included a charter sucking a rare steak dry because he had no vampire fangs was a well-intended juxtaposition compared to more prevalent and powerful vampires.
The Fear of the Moncroix comes in at under three hundred pages. Mr. Asher lets the reader drift into the humid dark south where vampire hunters are hunted, witches creep on the edges of forests and swamps, and somewhere as the moon crests, a werewolf howls. Each chapter has a small sketch to accompany the book, and a few other professional sketches are throughout the book. It’s a lovely shelf piece to add to a book collection.