ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Blight Marked by Josh Erikson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Ethereal Earth (Book #3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 390 pages
Published: 11th March 2020 by Josh Erikson (Indie)
This series is pure entertainment, get on this as soon as you can!
“Deep down we all believe we’re frauds. But it’s only when we stop believing that it actually becomes true.”
Hero Forged was good, Fate Lashed was incredible, and thankfully the second book wasn’t a fluke. Blight Marked, the third book in the ongoing Ethereal Earth series by Josh Erikson, retained the overall quality displayed in Fate Lashed. At the same time, Erikson also managed to include more of the fun and entertaining dialogues from Hero Forged into this book. Several readers have said that Fate Lashed was relatively more serious in tone, although I grew to loved the series because Erikson did that, there were times where I missed the fun and, at times, hilarious dialogues in the first book. One out of many examples, you can’t say that you don’t like good banter with a pun like this right? RIGHT?
“I feel like you’re setting yourself up for some kind of elevation pun, and I’m not really—“
“Though I suppose it’s more of a ladderal move,” he cut in.”
She nodded sadly and bent to start down the hole. “Yep. Good lord.”
Anyway, Blight Marked read like a combination between Hero Forged and Fate Lashed, and it worked; Hero Forged felt more like a prototype/origin story for the rest of the series to shine now. I found the central themes in Blight Marked that revolve around love, family, changes, self-righteousness, self-confidence, and differences in belief to be very relatable, especially in our current society. There’s no break for Gabe and his growing list of companions, and there’s also no shortage of high-stake threats coming for them. The ones hunting Gabe and his friends aren’t all bad guys now; some of them are technically good people—with different and firm beliefs that they’re the one doing the right thing—that stand on a different side of the fence.
“Change is powerful magic. Belief too. Put them together, and it turns out you might even make a real person out of walking cardboard cutout of one.”
Readers who have caught up would know this, but for those who don’t, there’s something about Gabe you should know, he LOVES talking and complaining; it is a part of him, and it’s his coping mechanism. Admittedly, even though I understood his reasons and the dialogues were almost always fun to read, there were a few scenes that, in my opinion, ended up being a bit too long than necessary. However, the character development of Gabe throughout the series so far has been steadily natural and believable. In Hero Forged, Gabe complained about the situation he found himself in, while in Fate Lashed he grew insecure and he complained about his relationship for Heather. In Blight Marked Gabe is becoming a better man who’s more mature and accepting of his power and situation. Complaining is still there, of course, but I loved how he slowly complained less as the story went. By the end of this book, it felt satisfying to see how far he has come and developed since the first book.
“However, wishing is not the same as doing—though it does scratch a similar itch and is therefore a dangerous habit to take up.
Gabe’s characterizations were further amplified by the relationship he has with his companions and Heather. The relationship progression between Gabe and Heather was very evident and crucial throughout the narrative, especially in the middle section of the book. With this, romance became a huge focus of the story, and if you know my reading taste, you’ll know that I am VERY picky about this. I feel like a lot of fantasy authors often fail in writing romance that doesn’t make me want to claw my eyes out from reading them. Erikson managed to not only make the relationship between Gabe and Heather non-infuriating to read, but he also successfully wrote a relationship progression that felt genuine and believable.
“You may not have been built for a relationship, but I wasn’t built to have magic either. And look where we are! Two people doing everything the wrong way to get the right result…That’s kind of our thing.”
Erikson once again delivered a climactic sequence that’s super engaging and action-packed. I don’t want to spoil you the content here, they were surprising, thrilling, and they wowed me; the climax sequence in Fate Lashed was awesome already, I didn’t expect Erikson to magnificently accomplish a better and grander one. Not gonna lie, due to how good Fate Lashed conclusion was, sometimes I felt impatient to get to the final sections of the book because I want to see whether Erikson can nail it again, and he did. I honestly think that the last 30% of the book ended up being the best section of the series so far.
“I won’t play the game your way. I don’t sacrifice pieces, asshole. I cheat.”
It feels incomplete for me to review a book in Ethereal Earth without mentioning the brilliance of CONscience, the excerpts that started Gabe’s chapters. Erikson continues to fill these excerpts with relatable passages that contained some of his best writing. Plus, the fact that they’re written in Gabe’s first-person perspective made these excerpts crucially important in repeatedly enhancing Gabe’s characterizations. Erikson’s clean prose also shines during these sections, and they made me eager to find out what’s offered in each subsequent chapter.
“Here’s something they don’t tell you when they hand out instructions for life: things move much slower when you hate where you are…What kind of deity would design an hour of sex to go by in a complete blur, while ten minutes of an opera feels like the slow gasping death of a thousand galaxies? A monster one, that’s what kind.”
Overall, Blight Marked was an engrossing read that’s both evocative and heart-hammering in equal measure. The dialogues were entertaining, the humor was hilarious, the action sequences were engaging, the romance was empathizing, and the world-building was intricately built. Blight Marked has established Ethereal Earth as one of those PLUS ULTRA rare urban fantasy series where each new installment receives my high anticipation. During several sections in the last 30% of the novel, I honestly thought that Blight Marked was going to be the final book of the series, it is good to know that there will be more to come after this, and I will be anticipating its arrival.
“One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that comfort and fulfillment rarely exist in the same place at the same time. When I’ve had lots of the first, my life has been pretty pointless. And when I’ve had plenty of the second, it’s not pleasant for its own sake…That’s why we’re so amazed when something manages to tick both boxes. Why we try so hard to find…and why we hold on so fiercely when we do.”
Official release date: 11th March 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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