Review: Serpentus

  • Title:
    • Serpentus
  • Author:
    • A.J. Calvin
  • Release:
    • February 27, 2024
  • Format:
    • Audiobook
  • Series:
    • Relics of War

I believe that Serpentus is a goddamn brilliant example of fantasy world-building. I genuinely love everything about this book. At first, my only real issue was how I thought it wouldn’t be that friendly for readers new to the series. I’ve read 3 books and a short story worth of this world’s lore, so I know how much is missing from the greater plot of the series. There were a handful of scenes and bits of dialogue, along with the writing style that stood out to me and made me realize I was wrong.

One example cums at the end of the Relics of War series. One of the “Scorpion Men” stated that they didn’t want what had been done to their people to be forgotten. This is regarding their rules regarding breeding with other races, and not wanting to go extinct and be treated as a fable of the past. And here lies Serpentus, a first-person, journal-esque novel that reads like a post-war diary/recollection to pass down to future generations.

As I read this under my lamp’s yellow light, the first-person PoV and the diary-esque format evoked feelings of reading a war diary under candlelight in a dusty library. It made me wonder who I was. Am I one of Owen’s descendants? A mage studying the history of a terrible war? Or am I a commoner, reading the most preposterous sounding tales in a long-forgotten book, pulled off from a dusty back shelf in a great library? The first-person narrative only helped to immerse me into the world and the story.

In one scene, Owen comments on the Scorpion Men, noting how he wasn’t sure how they came to possess the lower half of a scorpion, despite supposedly having human ancestors. In other scenes, he refers to the Soulless, servants of the nameless god. He ponders on the fickle nature of the god Karmada, how Blademon is the patron god of the Serpent men. In another scene, he and the Guard Captain he was working with (if memory serves) commented on how only a magic wielder would dare to wear a dress on a battlefield, and so on.

I love this subtle world-building in indie fantasy, as opposed to the exposition dump that was Christopher Paolini’s Murtagh which opts to alternate between reference scenes from the “main series| and exposition dumping, as if readers have never read the main series before. In Serpentus, the lore-building is done naturally, either in conversations or in Owen’s thoughts as he ponders his current situation.

I began reviewing in June 2021, and since then, I’ve primarily reviewed works by indie authors. It has given me a great respect and appreciation for indie authors and what they do. I love it when authors write additional side stories in their world and flesh out their lore, history, and cultures. Serpentus, and the other Relics of War short story, The Ballad of Alchemy and Steel are 2 shining examples of what I love to see. I truly hate it when authors create these fantastic worlds, and then the fucking world orbits around the least interesting person in them, such as Murtagh or the rest of the Inheritance Cycle.

Owen isn’t “The main character of The Story“, he’s the main character of this story, and I absolutely fucking love that. He’s only a small part of a greater story in a world far larger than him, but he feels no less important for it. All of these Relics of War tie-in stories are deeply humanizing to the different people and factions in this world. Each character in these worlds feels like a real person. They have personalities, hopes, and dreams that extend beyond whatever scene they’re in.

Some of my favorite books were written by under-appreciated indie authors who don’t get enough credit or sales for the amazing worlds they create. I’ve considered leaving book reviewing numerous times over the last few years. I have a seemingly never-ending backlog of books to read/listen to and review. And every fucking time I consider it, such as last year, Every time I think about giving up on book reviewing, I discover some incredible indie-fantasy series that makes me think “If I left this hobby, I never would have discovered this wonderful thing I love….” and the series that kept me going last year, was in fact, the Relics of War series.

The majority of the books I’ve read over the last few years have been books I got for free. And I always hope, when I find a series I enjoy this much, that my passion for them will cause other readers to ask “What about this series resonates with her so much?”, and give them a try and sell a few copies. I hope you’ll consider Serpentus, or even the Ballad, or The Moon’s Eye.

Years ago, I heard somebody say “When you love something, you want to tell the world about it.” That’s how I feel about these series; Partially, because I think they’re incredible, and more people should read them, and partially because I hope that somebody shouting from the rooftops about a series they love will catch my ears and I’ll discover yet another amazing series I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Note: This copy was provided to me free of charge as a physical review copy. The opinions stated in this review are mine and mine alone, I was not paid or requested to give this book a certain rating, suggestion, or approval.

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