Valley of the Free by Michael Sliter
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Pandemonium Rising (Book #0.5 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy
Pages: 128 pages
Published: 18th December 2019 by Dragyn Press (Indie)
Short, violent, and bloody; this is a good place for you to try Sliter’s writing.
Valley of the Free is a prequel novella to Mike Sliter’s grimdark fantasy series: Pandemonium Rising. The story follows Ferl’s quest for vengeance, and this little novella depicts the conception of the infamous Ferl’s Company. Having read—and loved—the two available books in the main series so far, I can safely vouch that no prior reading of the main series is required. You can enjoy Valley of the Free without any knowledge of the main series; excluding the main character—Ferl—only one or two other characters appeared briefly. In fact, I do honestly think that this is a very starting point for you to try Sliter’s work. Valley of the Free is not as dark/brutal as Sliter’s debut work, Solace Lost, and it’s good to familiarize yourself with his writing style and gritty content first. I would say that Valley of the Free is more attuned to Wisdom Lost in terms of content and quality, which, in my opinion, delivers a more balanced narrative and also encapsulates Sliter’s craft at his best so far.
Same as the main series, characterizations are still the heart of Sliter’s storytelling; this is one thing that he learned well from reading Abercrombie. I’ve always enjoyed Sliter’s style of characterizations. There’s something about the way he makes sure that every event we read always unfolds and perceived directly from the character’s point of view that reminds me of Abercrombie’s style. Yes, Sliter’s books are dark, violent, and that’s still applicable here. But I found the dialogues traded between Ferl, Ashland, Christoph, and all the other characters he encountered to be engaging and even funny at times. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy reading Ferl’s Mercenary Company conception this much—heck I honestly almost forgot who Ferl was—but this one kept me thoroughly entertained and hooked. Also, for such a short book, I’m amazed that Sliter managed to deliver an action scene—including some of the most terrifying pigs I’ve ever read—that made me feel so invested; I don’t usually feel invested in reading action scenes contained in novellas due to the lack of time spent with the characters and characterizations. I don’t think I have any issues with this novella other than the one that I often encountered with stories in the medium itself, which is that it’s a bit too short to my liking.
“She hated it, this killing. But Ashland knew that people tended to hate the things they were best at. The blacksmith eventually resented his hammer. The fisherman would rather toss his pole in the lake at times. The innkeeper would, by some point, just as soon burn down his livelihood, turning the place into kindling. And, in similar fashion, she wished that she did not have to kill. But life always had different plans.”
Filled with morally ambiguous characters and gory actions, Valley of the Free provides a quick and bloody reading experience. Finishing this made me eager to get back to the main series. By Pandemonium’s brain, I hope my memory will be enough to remember the necessary details when the third book—Faith Lost—in the main series comes out. Give me Faith Lost already, Sliter! Grimdark fantasy fans, get on this series, this is a good place for you to start your journey and it’s only $0.99!
You can order the book from: Amazon
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