The Empire of the Wolf, by Richard Swan, is certainly one of the more unique and original fantasy series hitting the shelves right now. I found myself reading the second installment, The Tyranny of Faith, recently and it continues to be a story that constantly defies my expectations. It is a series that walks you to a well-paved road, gestures to it, and immediately makes a hard right and walks directly into the forest – for better or worse.
Tyranny is the sequel to The Justice of Kings, which I reviewed here, and it is characterized by adding depth to existing beloved characters, insightful commentary on government and education, a strange sexual tension between protagonist and mentor, and some insane action sequences. The book is part historical fantasy on the fall of the Roman Empire, part detective story, part crusade, and part bureaucracy simulator. You might be sitting there thinking, “that’s a strange combination of things” to the last two sentences, and you would be correct. But that is kinda the heart of this series, it is a chaotic amalgamation of stuff that is a bit discordant but somehow just works.
In many ways, Justice feels like a prequel to the meat of the story. Justice focuses on our trio of wandering necromantic magistrates bumbling about the countryside and trying to solve little problems that begin to paint a picture of a larger creeping corruption at the heart of their empire. Thus, Tyranny feels like the first true book in the larger story as it follows our cast heading to the big city/capital and trying to root out that corruption. The second book has much larger worldbuilding and very successfully uses the big ideas established by book one to build a strong atmosphere and thematic map for the series.
One thing the series, and in particular Tyranny, does particularly well is explore very flawed characters. Our main cast is made up of a mentor figure, his bagman, the protagonist protégé, and a wayward sheriff that they picked up in the boonies. All of them have fascinating character profiles, equally defined by their strengths and weaknesses. These weaknesses make them more relatable and stronger characters. I wanted to say that the group has fabulous chemistry, but it would be closer to saying they are discordant in a purposeful and meaningful way that is satisfying to work through. Even the side characters and antagonists receive this treatment, with no characters feeling one-dimensional. I really enjoyed the bits of insight we get into the villain’s mind in book two. While it doesn’t make him more likable, it adds complexity to his zealotry that is not given to most religious antagonists/villains. It doesn’t make him more likable, but it does make him feel more complex and less like the typical zealot standing for a religious bad guy.
The Tyranny of Faith is an excellent sequel by any metric, improving on all the good from book one and bringing its own form of pizzazz to the series. It stands out among all the books I have read this year so far as a memorable experience and most importantly has done the pivotal job of a bridge book by making me hyped for the next installment. Excellent job all around, I very much recommend you check out this series.
Rating: The Tyranny of Faith – 9.0/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.