Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com
Once in an age a novel comes around that stirs up such excitement that even before it reaches a publishing house the author grows a following that many writers can only dream of. A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan is one of these astounding novels.
Originally self published by Hogan in 2013, A Crucible of Souls quickly attracted followers drawn to his enthralling storytelling style and complex characters. With more than thirty thousand ebook sales under his belt Hogan was approached by the speculative fiction arm of HarperCollins, Harper Voyager, and now this great series has a new home between physical covers. And as many bibliophiles will attest, it isn’t Sword and Sorcery unless you get to feel the pages beneath your fingers as you read.
And Sword and Sorcery this series is, but it’s thankfully far removed from the classical epic styles and with plenty of twists to provide distinction from the old tropes that usually permeate the genre.
A Crucible of Souls follows the complex and event plagued life of Caldan, a young man orphaned in his youth under mysterious circumstances and raised by sorcerer monks in a monastery that is part refuge, part school for the wealthy and magically gifted. After an incident in the monastery results in Caldan’s exile from everything he knows, he is quickly thrown into the real world with little more than a collection of half-trained skills, a pair of enigmatic rings, and a burning need to find out what happened to his family.
What follows is both far and familiar to readers of the Fantasy genre. This is still a tale of magic and swordplay in a pre-industrial revolution setting, and there are the classic themes of heroism and epic struggle redolent since the golden age of Fantasy, where Hogan differs from most authors is how he crafts his characters. For when a writer creates a world, it’s the characters that define what it becomes.
Hogan’s characters are some of the most human to be found on paper in many years. Deep and flawed, ambivalent, conflicted between self-interest and doing the right thing, every character in A Crucible of Souls is sculpted from raw emotion into something real and shocking enough that even though many only last a few pages the reader nevertheless is drawn to every story they might have to tell.
And it’s not just the characters that work so hard to make this novel a success. Hogan has built a world unique in its treatment of the subject of sorcery, of the desperation of mankind, of the atrocities committed in the name of “doing good”. And while this is primarily Caldan’s tale, Hogan does not shy away from giving brief glimpses into the minds of other characters that make this novel such an enthralling experience.
Any fan of the Fantasy genre will love this novel, as will anyone who enjoys epic storytelling, complex characters, or just getting the chance to read something that stands far above the norm.