Well, here we are. My annual “scream at the sky about Song of Shattered Sands” event. Each year, like clockwork, Bradley P. Beaulieu puts out an enormous, detailed, and dense epic fantasy about an original Arabian-inspired world. And each year, like clockwork, I tell people to go read it – but only a select few follow my advice. I get it, a six-book epic fantasy (five of which are now out thanks to the release of When Jackals Storm the Walls) plus supplemental novellas is a large project to take on. But, honestly, there are few series out there that will give you as much bang for your buck as the Song of Shattered Sands.
Reviews for Song of Shattered Sands novels:
- Twelve Kings in Sharakhai
- With Blood Upon the Sand
- A Veil of Spears
- Beneath the Twisted Trees
- When Jackals Storm The Walls (just kidding you are reading it right now)
Look, I don’t like reviewing sequels. I am here to help you understand whether a book is worth your time, and with sequels, you can often make that decision for yourself. As a review, you can’t really talk about a sequel’s plot, as you don’t want to spoil things for new readers to the series who stumbled onto this review (like the two people who edited this review for me). You are either selling something to someone who was already going to buy it, or going for the really hard sell and trying to get someone to commit to a huge number of books. Well, guess what reader, this is the latter, so strap in.
There are not many authors who seem to love writing their series as much as Bradley P. Beaulieu does. His passion for his books bleeds through every. Single. Page. I frankly don’t understand how he has the stamina to put out this many books so quickly. He has published one book per year(ish) and each one has absolutely no filler. These books have so much plot that Beaulieu had to write spinoff novellas just to fit all of the story in. Seriously, I am not kidding when I say these books are nothing but thousands of pages of plot and story. There is literally zero downtime. I don’t even know how he managed to track all of this when he was writing it. Thank Beaulieu for the book synopses he writes at the beginning of each book to help readers remember the 8000 things that happen in each book. The conflict has evolved into an entirely new story four times at this point.
With so much dense storytelling, the character growth has been enormous. My investment in each character is gigantic, and it makes following the meaty story all the more satisfying. Jackals, in particular, stands out because it finally fixed a minor problem that has been plaguing the story since book one. Twelve Kings (book one) begins as the story of Çeda, and while there are additional POVs, it’s very much her story. As the series expanded to have a much, much, larger scope, the burden on the larger cast became greater and greater. However, it always felt like the larger cast lacked agency when compared to Çeda, which watered down their segments. This issue has been improving since book three (A Veil of Spears), but Jackals is the first book to really feel like the entire cast all were as integral to the story as the original core protagonist.
If I had one criticism of Jackals, it would be that the extremely dense storytelling lacked a few major set pieces to break up the plot and stick in your memory. Most of the earlier books have key explosive moments that tug at the heartstrings and stick in the mind. Jackals is excellent all the way through, but it’s also a quieter and more uniform book without as much spectacle. Part of this has to do with the fact that we are in book five of six in a series that heavily leans into mystery. At this point, a lot of the reveals have already happened, and a good portion of the book is building up to the explosive finale that will undoubtedly be book six. Jackals is a great book, but it’s also a little meeker than its siblings. The book also felt a little light on major themes. Most of the ideas being bounced around are classic fantasy ideas with a new skin. While this is still enjoyable, it isn’t breaking new ground.
When Jackals Storm The Walls once again delivers a lovingly written epic story that never lets up and doesn’t let you down. With five out of six books sticking the landing so far, it is looking like a safe bet that this series will be one of the hidden gems of this era. I know I have leaned into the hyperbole and humor in my writing of this review, but I really do recommend you take the time and check out this series. It will not disappoint you.
Rating: When Jackals Storm The Walls – 8.5/10