Wow. It's hard to believe it's been almost 3 years since I read Lords of Dyscrasia, the first Dyscrasia book from S.E. Lindberg. Stylistically, that was a very interesting read, one with a mix of high fantasy, pulp adventure, and visceral horror. It worked as well as I could have hoped, if not better, and immediately came flooding back to the forefront of my memories when I sat down to Spawn of Dyscrasia.
I didn't think it was possible, but this is an even darker fantasy than the novel that opened the saga. It's a story full of death and decay, of pain and pressure. In a post-apocalyptic sort of fantasy world where the 'good' guys are undead necromancers and hybrid monsters, the remaining humans must make difficult choices to ensure that there's a future for any of them.
Just to give you an idea of what you're getting into here, the story opens with a dying young woman, her body and soul slowly being consumed by the necromancer she serves. Her own ghost picks a replacement from out of the crowd, damning one of her oldest friends to the same sort of helpless, hopeless, inevitable doom. That friend, Helen, dutifully accepts the charge laid upon her and prepares to embark upon a future of sacrificing herself to save Lord Echo, the necromancer, in an effort to preserve her people.
Like the first volume, this is a very dark, very bleak, very sort of hopeless future, one in which the monsters have already won. It's all very well-constructed, with an interesting system of magic to drive the plot forward, but it's hardly what one would call your typical heroic, uplifting fantasy. In fact, it's as much a horror novel as it is a fantasy novel, but it's in that clash of genres that Lindberg distinguishes himself. This reads very much like an epic fantasy novel in terms of language and imagery, but one dealing with a dark, gruesome, horrific sort of subject matter. It's a gorgeous, textured, intricately layered story where every word counts, and where no phrase is wasted. Make no mistake, it makes for heavy reading, but you feel the weight of every word.
While I would have liked to see Helen play more of a heroic role, rather than serve as damsel in distress or sidekick, this is not really a world where humans have a significant role to play. It is a world filled with hybrid monsters and ruled by god-like beings, a world in which power is infected by an insidious sort of disease. Having said that, she's an admirable character, for all the flaws of her situation, and she does have her moments, especially as we approach the climax.
Overall, I found the pacing and flow much stronger, compared to Lords of Dyscrasia. It's a clearer, more consistent tale, one with those narrative bridges that I felt were lacking in the first book. As sequels or follow-ups go, Spawn of Dyscrasia is one of those rare novels that tops its predecessor in almost every way, which definitely bodes well for future installments. If you're open to something new, and have the patience to really pay attention to the narrative as much as the plot, then by all means pay Lindberg's world a visit - you'll be impressed at what he's able to accomplish in so few carefully chosen words, and you'll certainly appreciate the visit.
Paperback, First Trade Paperback , 236 pages
Published July 28th 2014 by IGNIS Publishing LLC