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The Severing Son by Vaughn Roycroft

Summary

Tales of the Bringer of Urrinan had been told for generations, but never had the prophecy felt so near to so many. Elan wasn’t sure if she even believed one man could cause the sort of upheaval that would change the world. And yet, just as the prophecy foretold, dark forces were on the rise—including the many Spali warbands raiding across the borderlands.
It was in pursuit of one such warband when Elan’s host discovered the hidden compound of the Outcast. She’d heard how the former chieftain of the mighty Amalus Clan had been unjustly accused of murdering his rival. How the conflict had begun over a woman. How the Outcast’s son—born of that same woman—perfectly matched the prophecy’s foretelling of the Bringer.
Prophecy aside, it seemed that fate had led Elan into the midst of a legend. Because of a choice made in the heat of battle, Elan found herself bound to an outlaw hunted by friend and foe alike. Whether she believed in the prophecy or not, she found herself entangled with a lone figure who vowed to seek the sort of upheaval that might just change the world.
Could Vahldan, son of the Outcast, truly be the Bringer of Urrinan?

Review

An excellent debut novel that mixes epic fantasy and historical fiction to create a compelling character-driven story. The Severing Son has many of the well known tropes and characteristics that I love in epic fantasy; a chosen one, prophecies, well-worked action scenes and epic battles, and detailed worldbuilding. And while it is distinctly fantasy, it also has much of the feeling of a historical fiction novel, which creates a unique blend that I really enjoyed. If you know much about medieval history, you can draw clear lines between the peoples of this story to the real world history of the Goths, Huns, and Romans. But while clearly inspired by true events, it is not a historical fiction retelling, but a true epic fantasy. I’ve read historical fantasy before but nothing that really compares to this novel. Roycroft creates an exquisite blend of the genres and his love for both fantasy and history is on clear display.

The magic in this book is one of the main factors that give this novel its unique feeling. You are never actually sure there is any magic at all. There are priests and priestesses that speak to the gods, seers that can “see” the future, and gifts from the gods that grant prowess in battle. Supposedly. This in never made clear in any real way. Are the priests putting on a charade? Are the seers just crazy? Are the gifts in battle just a berserker rage? We don’t really know, and that’s part of what makes it so great. I typically prefer hard magic systems because a lot of the time I feel like soft magic systems lend themselves to deus ex machina, where the magic user can just do whatever the plot needs them to do at the time and you don’t really know why or how. There is none of that in this book. It leaves you with a sense of wonder, and lets you decide for yourself what is magic and what isn’t.

The theme that most resonated with me from this book is that of identity. Our two main protagonists both struggle with discovering who they are and what their destiny is. Are they bound to a certain destiny predetermined for them or are they able to choose for themselves? Everyone expects Vahldan to be his father but he isn’t sure that’s who he wants to be. And Elan struggles to fit in anywhere, even among her own people. This theme is explored expertly in this novel, and while there is some resolution, I expect it to continue into the next book as well.

I’ve seen this book compared to the works of John Gwynne and I have to agree. The action scenes are amazing, very reminiscent of The Faithful and the Fallen. And the pacing of this book was done very well also, it read faster than Gwynne but not too fast, still leaving plenty of time to slow down and build out the story. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of epic fantasy and fans of historical novels, there is a lot in here to love from both genres. I can’t wait to see where the story takes us, I expect it will only get better from here.

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