I threw down a gauntlet, of sorts, when I reviewed Steel Crow Saga. By laying out a recent list, Steel Crow Saga included, of unique magic systems I tried to quiet my fears that authors would soon run out of ways to create these brilliant and fantastical worlds in which to capture the hearts and imaginations of readers, like me, that lived for worlds of magic. Not just magic but one that is thoroughly flushed out, rooted in a system that provided true buy-in and with a voice unto its own.
Today, Eight Will Fall hits shelves and Sarah Harian’s, becoming the latest exhibit of my faith restored that the magic system well isn’t running dry anytime soon. Harnessing emotions within themselves and others, Empaths can destroy and conjure any form of matter; including the hurting and healing of others.
It stands to reason that it is the utilization of emotions such as fear, anger, rage and pain that causes “destruction magic,” and love, joy, hope and courage that causes “conjuring and healing,” magic.
Harian doesn’t just utilize this thoroughly imagined system to create a genre bending story that is horrifyingly entertaining. It is interwoven with themes of oppression, social injustice and what happens when the common people are caught between warring extremest.
Empaths can range in both their strength and tangible ability to wield this magic. Much of the knowledge on where their abilities lie are in the lineage and heritage of their families. When Empaths are declared dangerous by the queen not only does she immediately control their magic by the utilization of a mineral but that indentures them into mining it.
She expunges their culture and heritage and makes it illegal for them to learn how to read. Thus, Empaths are never able to realize their true potential or even become aware that there is a particular skill that their lineage excels in. This keeps their levels of ability erratic at best, unintentionally reckless and dangerous at worst.
When Empaths start disappearing the Queen brings together a team of Empaths led by Larkin, a strong female lead character and sends them into the underground depths of The Reach. It is there they are to find the origins of what is long thought to be a myth. And the beginnings of the Empaths demise on the surface.
Harian brings to life a group of Empaths that each have their own unique voice and motivations. Throughout the book they struggle to coexist and work together. Their inability to trust each other is furthered hampered by the constant ability to draw on each other’s feelings. It is through anger, rage, despair and grief that they must find it within themselves and as a group to have courage and hope or they will be lost forever. And if they lose, not just their families but the entirety of the surface will be lost.
I could go further into the secrets and the reveals of the characters, what they learn throughout their journey into the reach but I don’t do spoilers and that would take too much away from the story. Two. There is something much more fun to discuss here… well, my dark soul screams fun.
The reach. Sarah Harian has created another character of formidable disgust in The Reach. It is a wretched, claustrophobic, monster ridden and gruesome place. Driving tens of thousands of soldiers mad before our group is forced into their mission, The Reach is a horror of nightmares that Harian leaves no detail to spare. Are you squeamish? Don’t. Are you not squeamish? Good luck.
…wounds have sprouted new limbs. Hands grow from his chest. He tried to slit his own neck to kill himself, but the wound simply transformed into another mouth… Grub-white skin draped his bones. His arms rested on either side of his plate, and his writs tapered into hands layered on top of hands, bony and blood crusted… He cocked his head to the side, the bones in his neck cracking. “This is where everything ends.”
The reach is made of the tortured, the not living and the misfigured. Made to terrorize and drive people mad and into submission of its will. The eight only have one choice: move forward, wield their fear to destroy what will be their destruction and conjure the light or be the downfall of all.