Sins of the Mother by Rob J Hayes
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The War Eternal (Book #4 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Dark Fantasy Horror
Pages: 352 pages (Kindle Edition)
Published: 3rd May 2022
And you thought your family had issues.
Eskara Helsene—along with Ruka and Tomas Piety—is one of my favorite narrative voices in fantasy fiction. She’s unafraid to be completely vulnerable to the reader, volunteering all the times she has failed, and for the catastrophes that lie square on her shoulders. Yet she balances her shortcomings by sharing wisdom that is hilarious, insightful, and always brutally honest. Her complexity and unpredictability have pulled the reader through wildly exciting adventures through the first three books. Book four is no different – in fact, it raises the bar for a finale of which I cannot begin to think of what it could contain. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out.
Twenty years have passed between books three and four, and due to Eska’s accelerated aging process, this means our protagonist is now a one-armed woman who is approaching senior citizenship. Not your typical fantasy lead, and it was refreshing to read about the different challenges she faced on her journey. Other major themes addressed include found family versus blood relations, managing depression, redemption, racism, and faith.
One of the best things going for this series its engaging narrative structure. Throughout the entire The War Eternal series, Hayes has written Eska as the omnipotent storyteller, relaying her life’s history to the reader. Throughout the series, Eska dropped bombs like, “… it was the second biggest mistake of my life,” or “if I had only known I’d never seen them again, I would have done xyz differently.” Tantalizing clues of the future were dropped, and hints of major plotlines were casually, maddeningly inserted, which made me want to race through the pages to understand it all. Well, now that we’re at book 4, all the little things she had been alluding to have finally come to fruition, and they are paying healthy dividends.
There is a structure to many of the chapters where the first section focuses on what happened during the time jump, and the rest of the chapter takes place in present day. So, we’re really catching up on three separate timelines: early, hinted-at plotlines from the first few books, plus the missing twenty years, and finally the events of the present day. When they all finally converge, it’s a truly momentous occasion. Emotional, powerful, magical stuff, with huge repercussions. Can’t get much huger. Trust in this.
I’m left with a giant ‘what now?’ at the end of this volume, and it’s a great feeling, because it feels like both a cliffhanger and also a massive resolution to many storylines all at once. Hayes has crafted a triumphant return to The War Eternal series with Sins of the Mother. I’ve been reading Hayes’ work for several years: Best Laid Plans, First Earth, Mortal Techniques – and Sins reinforces The War Eternal as my favorite of the bunch.