I received a copy of the audiobook from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Josh Erikson does it again with his stellar narration in Fate Lashed, and this time with a faster-paced, action-packed and riveting plotline.
In the previous book, we got the origins story of Gabriel Delling – how he became intertwined with supernatural entities and ended up as a human with the ability to use magic (well, just somewhat at this stage). After losing the evil God from his head and spending time hiding out in a remote cabin to ruminate, he returned to civilization and in no time landed himself into trouble again. As fate would have it, the powerful inner circles of the Umbras are now contending to seek a ‘Key to the Universe’ which has revealed its existence just about the same time that Gabe got himself unwittingly embroiled in the affairs of these creatures from the Ether. That he survived what he did in Hero Forged, Gabe became a wildcard that fate has neither a read nor a hold on. In other words, he is now the key much sought-after player in this quest for the Key, for better or for worse.
Fate Lashed improved upon almost every aspect from the previous book. From the richer worldbuilding to the well-executed pacing, and the introduction of more interesting characters. Origins stories tend to be more of a slow burn, but I can appreciate the reasons for it even though pacing usually suffers. This sequel though started with loads of action and barely took any breathers. Chaos and mayhem stalk Gabe’s footsteps. Every time I thought that perhaps our main characters can relax just a little bit, I was proven wrong. Even if it’s not a fight to the death, it’s the appearance of some other clan trying to get Gabe to go over to their side. If I were him, I would have no idea who to trust. All except Heather, of course.
Gabe spent an entire book agonising over his relationship with Heather. The excerpts of Gabe’s writing of his CONscience are now focussed almost entirely about how he was grappling with his feelings about Heather and how his abandonment issues made it hard for him to accept the truth of their relationship. Gabe’s constant whining became a bit of a problem for me, and it got tiring after a while. Paradoxically, the author’s narration of Gabe’s inner voice was so excellent and empathetic that it felt even more real. On the one hand, listening to Gabe whine felt so real that I got annoyed. And on the other, I was amazed at how spot on Erikson’s voice acting was in getting Gabe’s characterisation across so well that it irritated me so much. One thing’s for sure though, Gabe’s character has a solid imprint in my mind now, and there were some genuinely compelling moments that I found instrumental to his growth as the main protagonist of this series.
There’s nothing we love so much as the quest for truth.. And there’s nothing we hate more than getting it.
Aside from that one issue, I loved everything else about this book. The humour was even better and more natural than the first one, and there were numerous times I found myself laughing out loud in public while listening to the audiobook. I loved the various references lightly sprinkled across the narrative, especially the ones in relation to Lord of the Rings. Erikson’s writing is easy to read, and yet felt polished instead of simplistic. The dialogue and banter, such critical components of urban fantasy, are well-written and felt natural even while fighting or fleeing for one’s life. The numerous actions scenes are so well-crafted that they wouldn’t go amiss in live action movies, like Indiana Jones on steroids with magic and monsters. Once again, all these came across extremely well because the author narrated his own work with utmost proficiency.
The Ethereal Earth series has all the necessary ingredients that make urban fantasy so fun and addictive, but the overall package feels fresh and distinctive. The empathetic and personal characterisation of Gabriel Delling balances out the narrative from just any other tropey retelling of a reluctant or accidental hero. I believe that Josh Erikson has elevated this genre with his brand of panache and talent for voice narration, and I’m in for the long haul.
You can purchase a copy of the audiobook or ebook from Amazon.