I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a honest review. This is SJ Hull’s debut novel and it can definitely feel that way at times, especially in the slower scenes. What the Crimson Script does bring to the table is good worldbuilding mixed with tyrannical tensions and a tale of vengeance. What I see in the Crimson Script is a fantasy version of V for Vendetta with magical artifacts. If you give this novel a little bit of time to breath and grow, you will be rewarded in spades with plenty more to come in the sequel novels.
Our story takes place in Abys-Luthil, which was once two great empires now combined into one. The streets are littered with criminals and the guilds keep vying for power in the forms of arcane artifacts. Artifacts are magical weapons created by a race long forgotten and written in ancient texts very few can decipher. Lyra Alpheri, masked as a cape vigilante traverses the streets at night putting a stop to the guilds plans and protecting the weak. In the daytime, she returns to her place as a noble daughter of magister Maellon Alpheri. Abys-Luthil was once a land ruled by a tyrant, until the people revolted and set up a five magister system elected by the people to speak for the people. To protect the people from the governments power the Vox Militant was created with the intention of taking back the power if the magisters overstepped. Lyra along with her friend Kat and her families master of the arcane forge Virgil will work together to bring justice to those plagued on the streets.
Abys-Luthil is on the brink of civil war, but the real tensions come from war to the north. Chief magister Nihilio decides to make a drastic choice by forging a foreign alliance and to disband the Vox Militant essentially creating an oligarchy not agreed on by the people. Maellon Alpheri is vehemently against these actions of taking the voice of the people away from them. Tragedy soon entails and the Lyra has to escape the carnage of the city. Lyra vows vengeance of the magisters of Abys-Luthil for the devastation they have brought to her family, but she will not do it alone. She will have Kat at her side and a arcane weapon just in case.
Let me get the negatives of the book out of the way before we go any further. The first half of this novel was slow to me with the character interactions seeming to go on for multiple pages at a time. This is done to build the atmosphere of Abys-Luthil and the people that inhabit it. There are some great chapters in the first half, but it is not until the half way point until the pacing and plot kick into overdrive. Lyra turns dark rather quickly, almost to the point where it feels a bit too over the top. This didn’t bother me at all because this reminds me of some people I know if my life who can go from zero to one hundred percent in a blink of an eye. Lyra’s anger is justified and the dark path she goes down was addicting to read. The best part of the story was learning about the arcane weapons, why they are so rare, and how their magic works. Lyra has an awesome arcane weapon that she goes to war with and she will slam a fist at the heart of Abys-Luthil with it.
In conclusion, this was a fun read for me despite the slow beginning. There is plenty of meat on the bone for any fantasy fan to enjoy but especially if you are a fan of vengeance stories, strong female characters, and love V for Vendetta. I would be remiss if I didn’t quote my favorite line from the aforementioned movie. “The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.” Try reading Lyra and not have this quote ringing in the back of your mind, I dare you!