Book Review: The Way of Edan (The Edan Trilogy, #1) by Philip Chase

Book Review: The Way of Edan (The Edan Trilogy, #1) by Philip Chase

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

Cover art illustrated by Kyra Gregory

The Way of Edan by Philip Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Edan Trilogy (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 539 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 21st March 2023 by Philip Chase (Self-Published)

In The Way of Edan, Philip Chase has weaved a lyrical fantasy debut that will highly appeal to fans of classic and modern fantasy.

“The old tales take us to faraway times and places, but they’re also where we come from. They tell us how we got here.”

Before I begin my review, I will give my full disclosure first. When I review an ARC or review copy, I usually say I receive the book in exchange for an honest review. I leave it at that. But in this case, I need to be more specific with my transparency. Philip Chase, the author, is a fellow book reviewer, booktuber, and my friend. He is a friend I respect, and I need to mention first I have no qualms about giving a negative rating to an author I know as a friend. I befriended many authors in the past six years, and it has never stopped me from giving my honest thoughts, for better or worse. Assuming that I DO finish reading the books, of course. Look at my review on The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft, Ash and Bones by Michael Fletcher, or The Garden of Empire by J.T. Greathouse, and more. If you think I have been giving more positive ratings/reviews to books than before, it is because I tend to DNF books I dislike due to my overwhelming TBR pile. When that happens, I leave no review. But if I finish a book with many issues I dislike, like the examples mentioned earlier, you bet I will be giving my criticisms. It is up to you to believe the credential of this review or not. I am not here to change your mind. This long introduction leads me to say my respect toward Philip Chase has increased further after reading The Way of Edan. There were a few minor hiccups in the writing that were not suitable to my reading preference, but overall, this is a marvelous debut penned by a seemingly veteran author with a lot of love for the genre.

“The truth is, it’s easier to see the justice in people you deem to be like you, and far easier to find the wrong in those who differ.”

The Kingdom of the Eternal will awaken when the Way of Edan holds sway over all of Eormenlond. So say the prophecies. With unrivaled power in the gift, the Supreme Priest Bledla leads Torrlond and its mighty army to convert rival kingdoms by the sword and by the fang. Among the gathering resistance is the sorceress Sequara, whose mission is to protect her island and her Andumaic faith from the Torrlonders’ aggression. As holy war looms over the kingdoms of Eormenlond, a chance encounter bestows a terrible curse upon a young man. Dayraven’s curse may decide Eormenlond’s fate. But first, with the help of unlikely friends, he must survive the shattering of his world.

This is the premise of The Way of Edan. And it did not take long for the story to grab my interest. In fact, right from the exciting prologue. Contrary to some opinions stating prologues should not exist in fantasy, I must respectfully disagree. I love reading a great prologue that functions as a glimpse into the kind of story you are getting in the rest of the book. I believe Chase nailed that nicely. Immediately from the prologue, you can tell this is a fantasy novel that does not shy away from explicit violent scenes with plotlines revolving around prejudice, faith, and religious zealots. It is true that fantasy books with conflicts centered on faith and clash of ideals are easy to find. They are common. Not only in fantasy or books actually, countless disputes (on multiple levels) in our daily lives, sad to say, happen because of religion and differences in faith. When we look back to our past as a human, myriad recorded wars with staggering casualties have been accomplished in the name of religion, greed, and self-righteousness. Having these in your books does not mean it will instantly sap the quality of the story and writing just because they have been done many times before. It always comes down to the execution, and Chase implemented these conflicts into his story so damn well.

“Putting death in Edan’s hands was like closing one’s eyes in the darkness and pretending it was not there. Joruman was no such fool. He did not need religion as a false comfort to cloak the stark truth from him. The Kingdom of the Eternal was a childish fabrication, a ridiculous fantasy that weak-minded people told themselves they trusted in because they could not face the permanence of death. To be sure, the Way was a convenient means to control the populace. Those in power pandered to the delusion that after their corpses had rotted, the people’s miserable lives might continue if only they would believe hard enough in Edan. Armed with such faith, they would go to war and kill and die.”

I have often stated how much I enjoyed reading modern epic fantasy novels that implement elements and tropes popular in classic fantasy series into their books. A few examples of this would be The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne, The Bound and the Broken by Ryan Cahill, and The Five Warrior Angels by Brian Lee Durfee. And speaking of The Five Warrior Angels, even though done differently, both The Five Warrior Angels and The Way of Edan adapt brutal fanaticism and unhinged religious zealots as one of the key driving force of the story. So if you liked the topic of faith in The Five Warrior Angels by Brian Lee Durfee, there is a good chance you will enjoy the story in The Way of Edan. And vice versa. The way the novel is written and told, it is more precise to say The Way of Edan is a magnificent mix of classic and modern fantasy. As far as I know, Chase took decades to write and polish the trilogy. And having the honor to befriend the author for two years now, I know Chase’s passion for the genre is undeniable, and it shows in his writing.

“‘My power shall be reborn in the one who awakeneth and beholdeth the world anew. It is this one who shall save Eormenlond from destruction, and such will be the true Prophet of Edan.’”

But nothing I just said would matter much to me if I did not feel invested in the characters. And fortunately, Chase’s protagonists were easy to like. Chase uses multiple third-person POV chapters to tell the story, but Dayraven is the dominant main character of this tale. At least as far as the first book of the trilogy goes. Dayraven, on his own, was already likable as a character. You know the drill by now. A kind-hearted young protagonist, unbeknownst to practically anyone, has an uncontrollable power. And an unfortunate incident forced him to leave his village. In other words, the chosen one trope. Yes, prophecies and chosen ones are tropes used infinitely in the genre. Although I do not have any issues with these tropes in fantasy, it is admirable how Chase’s lyrical prose (somehow) made the narrative feels fresh and engaging. I did not feel like The Way of Edan was a copycat of any specific fantasy book I read. There were a few sections and events that reminded me of The Lord of the Rings, but it felt inspired and natural to the plotline, like the passage below:

“Dayraven looked over the heads of the soldiers in front of him at a knoll rising above the plain. Atop the knoll, like a god surveying his creation, a figure rode a magnificent white steed. And though the distance was not small, Dayraven knew the figure was King Earconwald. Now he understood whose will the drumbeats called them to obey. With this realization, he perceived the great pride illuminating the determined faces around him. In the eyes of his fellow soldiers glowed a strange joy. They were ready to kill and die, to leap into an abyss to get at the foe. They were waiting for the man on the horse to tell them to do it.”

If you have read The Lord of the Rings, you will know which scene that passage reminded me of. And it worked incredibly well to the scenes in the book after all the momentum building. It truly helps that Dayraven was not the only character I cared about. I am a reader who cherishes the portrayal of inspiring friendship and brotherhood, and Dayraven’s brotherhood with Imharr impactfully remains one of my favorite parts of the novel. Their friendship and their brotherhood with one another felt genuine and believable. The struggles they faced in The Way of Edan strengthen their connection with one another, including my connection with Dayraven and Imharr. And it’s not only both of them; along their journey, they met plenty of likable characters such as Urd, the two Dweorgs, Orvandil, and Sequara (one of the main POV characters of the book) that made the book more compelling to read.

“His father’s words about the dread before combat came to him. Every man feels it. Do not seek to crush it, but let it flow out and fuel you. Keep control of your mind, but let the fear loose at the same time.”

But enough about the protagonists, I will let you read and find out for yourself. I like to mention one more thing I totally appreciate about the characters. Chase included the POV chapters of the villains. I have frequently said in my reviews that this should practically be a staple in epic fantasy with multiple POV characters. It gives extra depth to the villain when done right, and it adds variety to the narrative. Chase succeeded at doing this. Bledla, the supreme priest of Edan, was absolutely insane. His willingness to do everything in the name of his religion was obsessive and terrifying. Bledla is the kind of character with absolute belief and is fearless in exposing unbelievers to violence and death to achieve his goal. At the same time, despite all his cruel actions (I never liked him), I understood from the text why he did the vile things he did. It is all well-written. There were other antagonists with respective believable motives, but I think I’ll let you read about them in your own time than hearing from me.

“Expect cheating in battle… Men hacking at each other and screaming and dying. It’s no tale of valor and prowess for children. Blood and guts and shit. No rules, and few die with glory.”

Please note that although The Way of Edan may contain a few explicitly violent scenes, it is not a grimdark fantasy novel. It is a lyrical and traditional epic fantasy oozing with some mythical quality due to its world-building. This is another reason why I mentioned Tolkien earlier. There is a relatively higher learning curve due to the many names of the characters (in the present days or history) appearing in the book and many similar-sounding location names, all ending with ond. The world of Eormenlond is plagued with centuries of hatred, tragedy, pain, and glory. It is immersive and rich in history. And there are meanings behind every location name here. But speaking of Tolkien, one aspect that did not gel with me too well in The Way of Edan, just like in The Fellowship of the Ring, was the songs. This is definitely a subjective experience, and even though I would love to read more bards in epic fantasy, I am also not a fan of having too many songs in an epic fantasy novel. Not when they appeared many times, anyway. The Kingkiller Chronicle is one of the few series where I felt the songs were a delight to read. But overall, this slight disruption in the pacing of my reading experience is not that big a deal. Chase has wonderfully balanced the plot movement, characterizations, soft magic, actions, and world-building details such as lore, weaponry, armory, and settings. And not gonna lie, it is hard to resist reading a beautifully written fantasy novel imbued with such a crystal-clear devotion to reading. Like this passage:

“The words were seared into his heart, and he could have recited them without the book, but he stroked the letters with his fingertips on the page and smiled at them, at the beauty of their expression and their truth. Ink on vellum. The bark of hawthorn branches processed with wine and iron salts to make the ink. The flesh of a calf, cleaned and bleached and stretched and scraped, to make the vellum. All to form words, which were nothing more than metaphors agreed upon to contain and convey truth. Such were the elements, mundane and intellectual, of the volume before him. Yet, brought together in this particular form to convey these particular truths, they became something far greater. They became sacred. Imbued with Edan’s truth. Nothing was as familiar and dear to him as the book he now read from. In fact, Bledla had bound his soul to the words of the tome, words so established in his mind that he might have written them himself.”

The Way of Edan might become my favorite fantasy debut of the year. We are still in March, so it’s still too early to tell. I still have some other fantasy debuts of 2023 I want to read. But the potential is certainly there. Whether you are a fan of the classic, the modern, or both fantasy, there are many things to love in The Way of Edan. The themes and writing evoked a timeless quality, and the small battles or the one big war sequence were engaging. The book won’t be suitable for those inching to read a grimdark fantasy or fantasy books with a hard-magic system, but beyond that, I think The Way of Edan can be enjoyed by many epic fantasy readers. Congratulations to Philip Chase for this great debut, and I expect the remaining two books (both will be published this year, too) in the trilogy to be better than The Way of Edan. There are a lot of setups being established in The Way of Edan, and I have a good feeling the payoffs in the second book, The Prophet of Edan, and of course the final book as well, will be rewarding.

“Courage is when you fear shame more than death.”

You can pre-order this book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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