I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a honest review. If you have read my previous review for The Masters, then this review should come as no surprise as to my love for this series. Please also bear in mind that this book needs to be read along side The Masters and should be treated as one volume. With all of that being said, I was glued to every page and hanging on every word Ricardo Pinto had to say in his dark epic fantasy like no other. Its a story of power, politics, ancient history, gods, and a forbidden romance. This will be a spoiler free review but I will be touching on events in the previous volume.
After the long journey from his home isle, which has been pretty much left in ruins by The Masters, Carnelian has finally reached the capital city of Osrakum. Carnelian’s father Suth is on the edge of death and needs to be immediately transported to The Pillar of Heaven for his recovery. As the black gates open, Carnelian realizes that the election for a new emperor will take place in due order and he is forbidden to enter the legendary labyrinth and ultimately the Pillar since he is not the head of his household. That title still belongs to his father, but Carnelian will devise a plan to see his father once again. Once there, Carnelian will witness The Masters work their political influence, the influence of the Emperor’s servants, the vile nature of the Empress who is also his aunt, and discover a secret lover in a dark and grim atmosphere.
There is so much to unpack in this book so I will stick to the major points. This is a very grim world and Ricardo Pinto will not hold your hand as we travel down this dark path. Outside of the capital, the world is riddled with a plague and the elites are sheltered inside the city. The journey to reach Osrakum took many weeks but even the trip into the Labyrinth and up the Pillar will take several days still. The amount of history, political power, and sickening revelations that Ricardo Pinto introduces in this world will have the most dedicated grimdark fan have to take a 15 minute break.
The Gods in the world and the major religious faction believe in twins as being sacred and it has been that way for generations. What Carnelian doesn’t know is that the servants to the Gods and the Emperor are actually Siamese twins of all different kinds. That’s not even the most horrifying thing Carnelian will discover in the Pillar, but it will sure throw the reader for a loop. One final thing I would like to discuss is the way history and language is taught in this world. Much like the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, the history of this world is passed down through bead readings. I have never read a fantasy novel talk about this type of learning and it was beyond fascinating to see. It was also a great tool to introduce the history of the world through past tales, wars, rituals and so much more. Carnelian will get a much better view of the world he now inhabits but the election is coming and the powers that be are working against him and his father. Combine this with one of the most gut wrenching cliffhanger endings I have ever read, and you have a tale all dark fantasy fans must read!
I don’t say this very often, but given the volume of stories I have read over the years I am rarely surprised and shocked from the very first page. From cover to cover, Ricardo Pinto has left me speechless as to where the story is going and how our characters will deal with the turmoil to come. These types of stories are very rare but contain so much potential to take off in the SFF community. I really hope more people will give this series a try as the best is yet to come. With books 3 and 4 now sitting on my shelf, the new year can’t come soon enough and all I can say is job well done Mr. Pinto!