Book Review: The Severing Son (The Sundered Nation, #1) by Vaughn Roycroft
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art by John Anthony di Giovanni
The Severing Son by Vaughn Roycroft
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Sundered Nation (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pages: 538 pages (Paperback edition)
Published: 18th October 2022 by Avalon Cottage Publishing (Self-published)
The Severing Son is a fast-paced modern fantasy debut with great actions and nodes to classic fantasy tropes.
The existence of The Severing Son by Vaughn Roycroft came onto my radar because of my friend and fellow booktuber, Philip Chase. He called it one of the best self-published fantasy novels he had ever read. With that praise and the beautiful cover art by John Anthony di Giovanni, I couldn’t resist reading it. Vaughn Roycroft has been a kind supporter of my reviews and youtube channel. I did the cover reveal of The Severing Son, and like always, although I have interacted with him online plenty of times, this does not change my opinion of the book. And I’m glad to have read The Severing Son. Even if some sections and storytelling decisions did not vibe with my reading preference, this is a solid debut with promising potential for the rest of the series to be even better.
“When Mighty Lion is cast aside
The Severing Son restores his pride
Thunder wakes when blades collide
The steed on which Urrinan rides…”—from the Song of The Severing Son
The Severing Son is the first book in The Sundered Nation trilogy. The story mainly revolves around two main POV characters, Vahldan and Elan. Tales of the Bringer of Urrinan had been told for generations, but never had the prophecy felt so near to so many. Elan wasn’t sure if she even believed one man could cause the sort of upheaval that would change the world. And yet, as the prophecy foretold, dark forces are rising—including the many Spali warbands raiding across the borderlands. It was in pursuit of one such warband when Elan’s host discovered the hidden compound of the Outcast. She’d heard how the former chieftain of the mighty Amalus Clan had been unjustly accused of murdering his rival. How the conflict had begun over a woman. How Vahldan, the Outcast’s son—born of that same woman—perfectly matched the prophecy’s foretelling of the Bringer. Prophecy aside, it seemed that fate had led Elan into the midst of a legend. Because of a choice made in the heat of battle, Elan found herself bound to Vahldan, an outlaw hunted by friend and foe alike. Whether she believed in the prophecy or not, Elan’s fate entangled with a lone figure who vowed to seek the sort of upheaval that might change the world.
“‘And a king shall rise from among the kingless, born of exile. In glory shall he rise, and glory shall be his song, calling to the faithful, echoing across the ages. And even in his doom shall he lead unto Urrinan. Such is the fate of the Bringer.’ So say the hymns of the Dreamers of the Skolani.”— Brin Bright Eyes, Saga of Dania”
As you can tell from the premise here, prophecies and chosen ones are some of the classic fantasy tropes utilized in the story of The Severing Son. Contrary to some readers’ opinion that these tropes shouldn’t exist in fantasy now, I’m on the mind that I think they still have their place, and I certainly don’t mind reading these tropes used properly in fantasy. But before I get around to all the positives, I want to my criticisms out of the way first. And I can’t make this clear enough. This criticism will be a subjective criticism based on my experience. It’s a matter of reading preference, really. Several reviewers have mentioned John Gwynne when they talk about The Severing Son, and as a fan of John Gwynne’s books, I can understand why. The resemblance in the choices of tropes and the writing style were there. But there are significant differences at the beginning of Malice and The Severing Son. Gwynne took his time to develop the personality of the characters and their relationship with one another before plunging them into severe troubles. Because of this, the pacing in the first half can be slower than usual. I do not mind this. I actually love getting to know the characters first, and when danger visits them, the precarious situation felt more intense. But plenty of readers have mentioned the struggles with the slow-pacing of Malice. This is where The Severing Son differs a lot.
The Severing Son did not have a slow-paced beginning. It was the other way around. The beginning and the entire book were incredibly fast-paced. The first 200 pages, in particular, were too fast-paced for my liking. I wish we have more pages on the characters bonding first, especially Vahldan with his family before conflicts and disasters visit them. This slow beginning and characterizations were pivotal to my quick investment in Corban and other main characters in other coming-of-age fantasy stories. But when disasters arrived at Vahldan’s and his family’s home, the severity of the situation did not feel impactful enough. And then, one event after another kept happening non-stop. Vahldan practically never reflects on one of the big life-changing losses he encountered at the early stage of the novel for the rest of the book. I wanted Vahldan to reflect more on this. I wanted to feel his sorrow and pain. The relatively fast pacing from the get-go did not allow me to feel that. Because of this, despite the fast pacing, it took me 200 pages and fifteen chapters before I felt immersed in the story and the character’s predicament.
“Two become one, Together to stand, Forever to lead, Brothers unto Urrinan.”
Fortunately, once chapter 16, Ananth-Jahn, occurred, my criticism of the book gradually dissipated. Starting from chapter 16, the rest of the novel was smooth sailing for me. Let’s put it this way. I required four days to read the first 200 pages of The Severing Son, and it took me two days to read the remaining 300 pages of the book. I think that should speak volumes about my engrossment. The manipulation, scheming, and battles were suitable for the fast pacing of the book. More importantly, with more characters and more conflicts appearing in Vahldan and Elan’s life and relationship with one another, it gets much easier for me to care about them. As far as my reading experience goes, the remaining 300 pages were a far cry from the first 200 pages, in a good way.
And it needs to be mentioned how the prophecies created fascinating dynamics between the characters. I found it interesting how all the other character’s behavior changes upon finding out that Vahldan is supposedly the chosen one, especially when he hasn’t done many actions and feats at first. But he is charismatic. And he undoubtedly went through splendid development. He was constantly angry, and he struggled with this anger management. He always wants to resort to violence to conquer troubling situations. Some of the main themes of The Severing Son were leadership, responsibility, found family, and peace. It was rewarding to read Vahldan realized violence may not solve every crisis. And this is all thanks to the relationships he made with Elan, Teavar, and more.
“Vahldan didn’t want to believe that justice required bloodshed. Accepting that led to too dark a place to contemplate. There simply had to be a path to peaceful resolution. There had to be a way out—a way to break free of the shackles of legacy.”
The Severing Son is a fast-paced and exciting fantasy debut novel with plenty of promising potential for the rest of the trilogy to shine further. Although I had difficulty feeling invested in the characters at first, by the end of the novel, I cannot deny I am intrigued to find out the next chapter of Vahldan and Elan’s story. And more because I heard from Roycroft a new POV character will be introduced in the sequel: Bold Ascension. I think this is a good decision; it will enhance the overall quality of the second novel. Yes, although The Severing Son definitely works as a standalone novel, this is actually the first book in a trilogy. But if I didn’t know this is part of a trilogy, I would’ve thought this is a one-off standalone novel. The last big battle sequence was so well done, displaying Roycroft’s skill at writing engaging action scenes. I loved the revelation behind the identity of Brin, the writer behind every epigraph in the novel. Even if you succeed at predicting Brin’s identity, I believe you will still feel satisfied with the revelation regardless. The Severing Son has a satisfying ending, and I look forward to reading the sequel. Now that I am attached to the characters and story, I am confident the sequel will be even better.
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