Author: Stuart Jaffe
Title: The Way of the Black Beast
Publisher: Stuart Jaffe (September 2011)
Disclaimer: Received for review purposes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Malja wants answers. She wants to know why the two most powerful magicians in all of Corlin ripped her from her mother's arms, raised her only to fight, and then tossed her away to die at age ten. She wants to know why they are trying to recreate the spells which caused the Devastation that wiped out most of the world's population, leaving behind skeletal cities and abandoned technology. And she wants to kill them.
With Tommy, an orphan bearing the tattoos of a sorcerer, she crosses this shattered land. Despite the challenges they face -- crazed magicians, guitar-playing assassins, mutated beasts -- Malja pursues her vengeance with a single-mindedness that may destroy all she holds dear, forcing her to make a terrible choice between the family she lost and the one she has built.” GoodReads’ blurb
I’m not sure what I was expecting to find when I began reading The Way of the Black Beast. I suppose, in a way, I was ready to discover an entertaining, somewhat typical story with your classical fantasy world and larger-than-life heroine.
When was the last time I was this wrong again?
The novel starts off with action and doesn’t really let up, but it’s not a sink-or-swim situation. You get to understand the world, or whatever’s left of it, and did I love the worldbuilding. It actually is a post-apocalyptic world where magic (and mages) were used to further provide comfort and what passes as tech, until the wrong people got too power-hungry and everything went to hell. That’s where we step in, following the heroine as she tries to right the wrongs done to her in a way that sometimes causes her more grief that sated revenge.
That’s the other thing I liked: with the succinct introduction form the blurb, I half-feared to find another character too powerful to be balanced, too archetypical to be relatable. Malja is a legend in her own power, and her battle abilities are to be reckoned with, but she still was deeper than that. She told herself her goal was just revenge, but in truth she went out of her way to help the kid, to try to protect him from what he was. She solved her problems with her custom weapon and left no room for argument, but the ghost from her past chase her and she does wonder if it’s worth it. Unlike your average angsty lead, though, she’s not all woe-is-me, why must I kill... it’s more like it’s the only way she knows to deal with things, to cope with the rage inside her, and she acts without remorse even though she wonders if things could be different.
The one thing didn’t like so much were the “bad guys”. Not that smart, not that motivated beyond a generic lust for power... They weren’t on par with the rest of the story. All in all though, a great book. I’ll be sure to be on the look out for future instalments (hopefully we’ll get the world even more detailed and developed!) or new novels coming from