Book Review: Of War and Ruin (The Bound and The Broken, #3) by Ryan Cahill

Book Review: Of War and Ruin (The Bound and The Broken, #3) by Ryan Cahill

ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Of War and Ruin cover

Of War and Ruin by Ryan Cahill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Bound and the Broken (Book #3 of 5)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 1481 pages (Kindle edition)

Publish date: 19th of January 2023 by Ryan Cahill (Self-published)

Of War and Ruin is Cahill’s golden ticket to the pantheon of the fantasy greats. This mid-season finale to The Bound and the Broken is 430,000 words of glorious epic fantasy.

“Where I come from, there is nothing more important than your honour. But honour is not determined by the perception of others. It is in how you see your own deeds. Treat him the way you believe he should be treated.”

Yes, at 1481 pages (Kindle page count) and 430,000 words, Ryan Cahill has created one of the biggest fantasy novels I’ve read. For perspective, this is slightly bigger than A Storm of Swords or A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin, and it is also larger than The Way of Kings or Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. And does the book earn its page count? Yes, it does. Sure, there were a few sections that, in my opinion, could be trimmed down to tighten the pacing further. But on the grander scheme of things, this is not a big deal at all. I mentioned the same thing with Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, and I still consider that book a masterpiece despite it. And Of War and Ruin is a phenomenal epic fantasy. No doubt about it. It gets crazier and more awesome when you consider Cahill wrote, edited, and published this massive novel in one year. Of Darkness and Light was published in 31st of December 2021, and then the novella The Exile was published in 21st of May 2022. This book, Of War and Ruin, was recently published on the 19th of January this year. That’s two big novels and one novella published in one year. It’s an insanely fast output that somehow resulted in a truly amazing novel. This review will be my spoiler-free thoughts on Of War and Ruin and the series so far.

“This world chews us up and spits us out. It doesn’t care if we live or die. It doesn’t care who we love or who we hate. It is filled with misery, death, and loss. It cares little for us. But that is precisely why we must care with all our hearts, fight for the ones we love, and stand for what we believe in. Because in a world where nothing matters, what matters to us means everything. If we forget about the ones we love, everything loses meaning.”

Of War and Ruin is the third out of five books in The Bound and the Broken series by Ryan Cahill. Similar to how Of Darkness and Light seamlessly continue from where Of Blood and Fire ended, the story in Of War and Ruin continue after what happened at the end of the previous book. There are not enough words in a single review to fully explain how much Cahill has improved again in his writing craft since his previous book. Of Darkness and Light was already a huge improvement over Of Blood and Fire. But it is still tame compared to how much Of War and Ruin improved the series. As the title says, war and destruction are ravaging the entire Epheria. And in terms of scope, world-building, writing, and characterizations, Of War and Ruin is undoubtedly Cahill’s best storytelling in the series to date. You know that feeling when you read an epic fantasy series, and you’re amazed at how the author tracked every piece of his series while providing momentous revelations to the hints planted since the beginning of the series? That, exactly, is what happened in Of War and Ruin. Main POV characters were spread out to different locations in Epheria, progressing each respective story, conflict, and development tied to one another. Expect satisfying convergences with this book, and you will get what you want.

“The only thing within our control is what we choose to do with the short time we have– the things we fight for, the people we love, the things we hold dear.”

I never expected The Bound and the Broken series would reach this grand proportion, not this soon. Of Blood and Fire started simple, tame, and comfortably. It was a smorgasbord of classic fantasy series mashed into one. In this book, for comparison, Cahill has blown the entirety of The Echoes Saga by Philip C. Quaintrell, another dragon rider epic fantasy series I recently enjoyed and finished, out of the water. Whether we’re talking about quality or scope. We have reached a state in the series where none of the novellas are skippable. For example, the prequel novella of the series: The Fall. A novella like The Fall, in many other series, would exist to serve only as a comprehensive account of what happened in the lore of the main books. And for a while, it was truly the case in The Bound and the Broken. Until Of War and Ruin entered the equation where the notion is no longer applicable. The event in The Fall played a major part in the world-building and history of the series, and in Of War and Ruin, it is even more evident just how integral it is to the narrative. The shadow of the past is the echo of things to come.

‘The past is the tapestry from which we learn the steps we should not take,’ Verathin had said. ‘Study it, learn from it, know it. Then and only then can we hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of those who came before us. Ignore it and doom yourself to being the story the next generation learns from.’

Then there is also the second novella, The Exile, where we learn more about the House Ateres, Dayne, Belina, and several other things I cannot mention here due to spoilers. Belina did not even become a memorable character, to me anyway, until I read The Exile. No kidding. My brain could not register her permanently back then. Things changed after reading The Exile. I mentioned how much I loved Dayne as a character plenty of times. He appeared for the first time in Of Darkness and Light, and since then, he instantly became my favorite character in the series, even more so after I finished reading The Exile. And now extensively more after reading Of War and Ruin. This is impressive because Dayne, comparatively, does not have as many POV chapters as Calen and a few other main characters. But bloody damn… what an empathizing and badass character he is. I cannot get enough of reading badass and virtuous reluctant heroes. Dayne’s actions and attitudes were inspiring to me. The iconic leadership and actions he unleashed in this book were utterly outstanding. There was one scene in Of War and Ruin where Dayne made me raise my fist to the air. It was too good, legendary, and rewarding. Those who’ve read Of War and Ruin will know which scene I’m talking about.

“Have you seen the way he looks at his hands when he thinks nobody is watching? Like they’re covered in blood. Dying for someone is easy. Killing for someone is far harder. And Dayne would do both for you without a thought.”


Picture: The Wyvern Riders of Valtara by Joel Chaim Holtzman

But I am getting ahead of myself here. I will share my thoughts about the characters soon. My point is this, offering additional depths to many other characters aside, these novellas helped flesh out the web of intrigues and complexities Cahill has planned for the series. And, of course, it goes without saying you HAVE TO READ the previous two main novels in the series first before this novel. Some of you might think this is obvious, but… people. Cahill is an author that keeps getting better with each book, and Of War and Ruin is a novel delivering emotional pay-offs. Without reading the previous books first, you won’t reap that reward. The novel starts slowly. The first quarter of the novel exists for readers to reacquaint back with the story and emotions of the main characters firmly first. And I appreciate this. After that, everything gradually rises and reaches a devastating crimson and fiery crescendo. As stated, Of War and Ruin is the mid-season finale of The Bound and the Broken series. It offers many explosive pay-offs for all the seeds, whether you spotted them or not, planted since Of Blood and Fire. ALL the previous novels and novellas are crucial foundations for Of War and Ruin. At the same time, the revelations revealed in this novel closed and provided fascinating questions to be answered in the remaining two books. Cahill demonstrates his continuously increasing skill as a storyteller and world-builder in Of War and Ruin, and the intricacies and interconnected factions, plotlines, and character relationships I read here are often emulated only by the finest epic fantasy authors.

“…mastering a craft does not require a series of steps that must be completed in a particular order. It requires perseverance and determination in the face of failure. The fear of failure is a concept that you humans have adopted more than any species on the mortal plane. I have seen it through generations. Often, with humankind, it is the fear of failure that prevents advancement, more so than failure itself. You spent hours carving your thoughts.

For the first time in the series, I feel like Of War and Ruin is THE book where I finally felt engrossed in every POV character. This wasn’t the case in Of Blood and Fire and Of Darkness and Light. Not on my first read. Don’t get me wrong here. I loved Of Darkness and Light, but it was crystal clear I loved reading Calen and Dayne’s POV the most in that book. Well, I guess I can still say the same for Dayne here. But I equally enjoy reading ALL the other POV characters now. I wish I could get into the details of why each POV character was so superbly written. But hey, this review is long enough already. I do not think it is a good idea for me to dive into ALL the well-developed characters in the series here. There are just so many important characters in the series now. Calen, Dann, Rist, Ella, Dayne, Alina, Eltoar, Farda, Kallinvar, Dahlen, Aeson, Therin, and more, just to mention a few. And they all captured my attention and immersion in Of War and Ruin. Reading these flawed characters trying to survive and fight for their loved ones was compelling. Honestly, I cannot think of an epic fantasy book where the characters cried or shed a tear as much as the characters here. Loyalty, betrayal, friendship, vengeance, responsibilities, family, love, faith, and devotion are some of the main themes of the book and series.

“Kallinvar had always believed you could learn the most important things about a person’s character by studying those around them. And in those short moments, Kallinvar had learned several things, but chief among them being the Draleid inspired fierce loyalty. The kind of loyalty that could never be bought or earned through fear.”

Picture: The Path to Strength by Randy Vargas.

One of my favorite things about Cahill’s multiple POV chapters is the way he handled perspectives from both protagonists and supposed antagonists. I don’t know why this (comparatively) hasn’t been done as frequently as I hoped. It should almost be a staple in epic fantasy with multiple POV characters to write the POV of the villain, too. Some of the best fantasy authors like Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne, Michael J. Sullivan, Fonda Lee, Ken Liu, Steven Erikson, and more have done this with their series resulting in incredible, tension-packed, and heart-wrenching character dynamics. Cahill showcased how great he was at this with Farda in Of Darkness and Light. And he elevated it to a greater extent in Of War and Ruin with Eltoar and other characters from opposing sides. This is not a grimdark fantasy series, but I loved feeling conflicted about the antagonists in this book and series. At times, it almost felt like these were just characters standing on opposite groups manipulated and forced by dire circumstances instead of them firmly branded as enemies. Sure, there was unforgivable evil like Rendall, but the rest? There were layers to their actions and motivations. However, knowing about this doesn’t mean I agree with the villains and what they did. This is to emphasize how intertwined the complexities of the relationships are now. Protagonists like Aeson can be hateable, god I hate Aeson, he is one of the most selfish and manipulative “protagonists” I’ve read. And antagonists like Farda can be likable. Even if you want to forgive each other, how do you even contemplate mercy when vile actions have been accomplished in the past, no matter the reasons. How do you break the chains of hatred? This is virtually asked throughout the series.

“When armies go to war. Hundreds die. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Blood spilled only to feed the soil–bodies returned to earth. Those who are victorious return home, hailed as heroes, champions of their people. But to those whose loved ones were slaughtered, they are murderers–despicable people who should be cast into the void. It’s not so black and white, is it, this world we live in?”

Before I end this review, it is safe to say that Of War and Ruin is the darkest, most violent, and most heart-pounding installment of the series so far. There were some heartbreaking and bloody scenes in the novel. Civilians and innocents were tortured mercilessly, and atrocious deeds were selfishly executed in the name of honor, religion, love, and justice. The all-consuming madness of The Burnt Lands was terrifying, and the inevitable confrontations of elemental and draconic disasters were magnificently implemented. Dragonbound by fire, broken by death. The stakes of The Bound and the Broken series increased vastly in Of War and Ruin. It is hard for me to imagine epic fantasy readers not liking The Bound and the Broken, especially if they reached Of War and Ruin. On top of empathizing characters plus immersive and intricate world-building, there was a myriad of elements that would click with many readers. If you want the feeling of being inside a shield wall (introduced in Of War and Ruin), you will get it here. If you love dragon riders, animal companions, and the heartfelt relationship between humans and them, you will also get it here. How about honorable immortal magical knights with soul blades that could cleave their victim’s soul? Or powerful portrayals of elemental magic and druid? If you want to read an epic classic fantasy series written in a modern voice with vivid battle scenes and all of these elements attached, The Bound and the Broken is for you.

“In Aeson’s experience, there were two things that caused people to follow: fear or devotion. Fealty could be won through fear in a heartbeat. Fear was powerful, and it led people towards truly atrocious acts in the name of self-preservation. But it was fleeting– as soon as something came along that inspired greater fear, everything changed. Devotion, on the other hand, was hard earned, through actions and deeds. Whereas adversity often eroded fear, it only strengthened devotion. Fear could win battles and wars, it could sweep armies aside. But devotion was what held nations together.”

Classic epic fantasy helped shape The Bound and the Broken, and in return, Of War and Ruin has established Cahill into becoming one of the fantasy authors responsible for fanning the embers of classic epic fantasy in the future. More than 2,000 words have been spoken on this review, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this tome. This is the first 5 out of 5 stars rating I gave to a main novel in the series. The Bound and the Broken is a fantasy series imbued with classic fantasy elements, heart and intensity, laugh-out-loud (thanks, Dann) moments, well-written characters, engaging battle scenes, and meticulous world-building. I cheered, I laughed, and I gritted my teeth. I was thoroughly hooked by the narrative Cahill crafted in Of War and Ruin. We are halfway through the series now, and I am genuinely excited to read the remaining books. Definitely more than before. If you haven’t read this series yet, and you are a reader who loved the things I mentioned, do not hesitate. Do not contemplate. Knowing Cahill’s admirable dedication to constantly improving his writing craft, I am confident the rest of the series will fulfill our expectations and epic fantasy craving. I absolutely loved this book on my first read, and my instinct says I will love it even more on my reread. Read The Bound and the Broken. In the meantime, I will wait with bated breath for the release of the penultimate volume of the series: Of Empires and Dust.

“Rist always found there was something bittersweet about finishing a book. The sense of achievement and joy was often tarnished by the realisation that he could never read it the same way again. He could, of course, start from page one and read through to the end, but it wouldn’t be the same. His preconceptions and notions were irrevocably altered by the first read. It was simply the way of things.”


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