Blog

The Soul of Chaos by Gregory Wunderlin

Summary:

The whispers followed her. Since her first rebuke they persisted in their pursuit, distant yet clear, they offered the same deal. Power. Freedom. They swelled when she acknowledged them, the fierce static eschewing reality in its sudden onset.

Exiled from his home and his noble heritage in disgrace, Rurik toils in the mines of an ancient, underground ruin as foreman to a group of breakers: prisoners, cutthroats, and dregs of society forced into indentured servitude.

His responsibility to his crew weighs heavily on his conscience-for even the most minor job can prove fatal, and earning his life back can only be paid for with the lives of his friends. With his absence, his twin sister, Arkalis, is left to deal with Rurik’s failures.

With a hostile occupation of her family’s lands and new responsibilities as her ailing father’s heir she finds herself trapped in an impossible situation, one she’d rather drink her way through.

Accosted on all sides, neither could foresee their actions as the spark to an apocalyptic war, one responsible for the emergence of dark gods long since thought defeated. Chaos, it seems, is their last hope.

Review:

The Soul of Chaos by Gregory Wunderlin is the first book in a dark fantasy series and is one action-packed traipse through a vivid world with rune technology and ancient entities of mass destruction. Told mostly through two POVs, twins Rurik and Arkalis (Kali), plus two smaller POVs, this story starts with a literal bang (I mean it, like a blast in the wall in the first chapter) and doesn’t stop packing the action until the last page. If you’re looking for some long breaths, this book doesn’t give you any and it most certainly doesn’t hold your hand, dropping world lore left and right at an unrelenting pace.

Won’t lie, it was a tale of two halves for me when it comes to our two main characters. Rurik starts off in some sort of penal colony as a foreman for a team of breakers (miners of ancient awesome stuff hidden behind obsidian who don’t live long lives due to danger). He’s a disgraced heir of one of the world’s dukes for…well plot reasons. Well, because Rurik would be a shit POV if he died in the first chapter, his team enters said obsidian ruins, uncovers some neat old world rune tech, awakes stone golem creatures, as well as opens this world’s version of the local Stargate. Rurik’s arc is action first, action second, action third, then some anatomy-altering torture for good measure. All interesting stuff. Kali’s, on the other hand, starts with her in a marriage plot because dear ole daddy the duke is on his way out and she’s all that’s left of the family. Kali hates it, so she drinks, fornicates, and plots with her future betrothed, Lesandre (also a POV) so they can both get out of it. Lots of action, lots of death, lots of betrayals, then some kidnappings. Also great stuff, and yet, I didn’t connect with Kali’s arc at first. Also, Luc, he’s fantastic. The dude’s luck and voice is just spectacular!

It wasn’t until about halfway through, did I start to like Kali’s arc more than Rurik’s and I think it’s because Kali’s character was allowed more growth. I’m a sucker for action, but Kali’s arc had more mental action versus Rurik’s physical life-or-death stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both, and when their arcs finally crossed, it was a fitting climax to how both characters reached said endpoint.

As I said, there’s not a lot of hand-holding when it comes to worldbuilding. Mr. Wunderlin drops us in this world and we are left floundering for a life raft and told to hang on. This might not be for everyone, but I will say one thing Mr. Wunderlin did well was introduce each chapter with a pre-chapter if you will. They weren’t epigraphs per se, as they were almost a full page long, but they were fun ways of dropping some lore without being bogs. Thus we are able to slowly unfurl the history of this world. All very cool stuff. There’s a lot of cool ideas in The Soul of Chaos. Some magi with some dark powers. This gnarly goliath-thing that kills a ton of people. Some void creatures that look like the Witch of the Waste’s goo people from Howl’s Moving Castle (but actually deadly). Connections to ancient warriors with lances of power. Void-touched swords that sizzle. But the coolest thing most definitely is the rune tech. Think of the runes like binary code, allowing for technology to open the Stargates…er I mean webways. It controls locks, some magic, but also can be imbued into suits of armor, kinda like a rune version of Jarvis. Best part of the whole book, for sure.

Aside from the dropping you in and letting you figure stuff out, the prose is fairly digestible. I do enjoy how the narrative voices of all four POVs are somewhat anime-esque in that you constantly have an assessment of the scene or dialogue with simple sentences of: Easy. Simple. Got this. Right. I liked it because this brought us closer to the character’s mindset. As I said, this is a briskly paced, action-filled romp that doesn’t let up off the pedal. And because of that, we aren’t given many scenes of lulls laden with trite dialogue or purple prose. And even though this book is almost 400 pages, it goes by in a jiffy.

The Soul of Chaos is a breathless tale that takes you on a journey of both historical significance of ancient gods but told via a personal set of stakes. The ending of TSoC leaves us wondering where the story will go next and how these reluctant heroes will cope. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.