Book Review: Voice of War (Threadlight, #1) by Zack Argyle

Book Review: Voice of War (Threadlight, #1) by Zack Argyle

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Cover art by Omer Burak Onal

Voice of War by Zack Argyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Threadlight (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 382 pages (Hardcover edition)

Publish date: 19th of March 2020 by Zack Argyle (Self-Published)

Promising beginning. Readers weren’t exaggerating when they said Voice of War by Zack Argyle is a great Sanderson-lite fantasy novel.

“The Rite of Revelation was such an important event for a parent, but would a parent really love their child less based on the color of their eyes? Love is not a calculated result of features and faults. Love is the unseen thread binding two souls together no matter the externalities.”

Voice of War is the first book in Threadlight by Zack Argyle, and the trilogy is one of my priority series to start and finish this year. Honestly, though, it is true the trilogy became a priority series for me this year, but I’ve had my eyes on Voice of War since it became a finalist (ranking fourth place) in SPFBO year 2020. And since I finished reading The Five Silver Rings short story by Zack Argyle two years ago, I’ve patiently waited two years before I started my journey in the Threadlight trilogy by Zack Argyle. Why? I have only one reason, and it all boils down to the fact that I was waiting on the completion of Threadlight Deluxe Edition Omnibus production. The edition I am reading Threadlight trilogy from. When Argyle mentioned the Kickstarter idea to me and asked me whether I would be willing to help him by sharing the news regarding his Kickstarter campaign, I immediately said yes without seeing what he had in mind. There is no regret, only a feeling of gratefulness. The result of the production, which I will talk about more later, made Threadlight trilogy omnibus the most beautifully produced indie fantasy hardcover I own right now. Not only do I believe its success is responsible for making a wave in the surge of Indie fantasy Kickstarter campaigns, but more importantly, the story inside is good.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful the wall is if the garden inside is dying. No one can live like that forever.”

How good is that quote? I loved it. Voice of War takes place in the land of Arasin, and it is a story of reluctant heroes, animal companionship, and generational family relationships with an integral focus on parenthood and family. The narrative is told—mostly—from the perspective of three main characters. Let’s tackle this review by discussing each main POV character.

Picture: The Continent of Arasin by Joan Belda

First, we have Chrys Valerian the Apogee, a thirty-year-old veteran promoted to the highest command after turning the tide of a war five years back. While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers—those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released. If you have heard about Threadlight trilogy, then you might have heard about it as a series inspired by Sanderson’s books. As a fan of Sanderson’s books, I agree with this sentiment. Without giving spoilers, Chrys Valerian’s background, in particular, is incredibly reminiscent of Dalinar Blackthorn from The Stormlight Archive. And there is also the world-building and magic system, which I will touch upon later. But honestly, even though Argyle wears his inspirations on his sleeve, the entire story is still distinctly his. Chrys was my favorite POV character to read in Voice of War. Sure, he has the most spotlight and POV chapters in Voice of War, but his determination to protect his family no matter what felt genuine and palpable to me. The themes of parenthood shine most in his POV chapters and the people around him. Based on how the story ended, I have a good feeling the rest of Threadlight trilogy will start to move away from its inspirations more.

“Sacrifice is core of parenthood. But while others were sacrificing time or wealth, Chrys had sacrificed a memory. An irreconcilable sacrifice. And, somehow, Chrys knew deep in his heart that it was nothing compared to the sacrifices he would have to make in the future.”

Contrary to Chrys, the second POV character, Laurel, took me a bit of time to feel completely immersed in. Laurel is a seventeen-year-old member of the Zeda, a secretive people living in a treetop metropolis hidden in the Fairenwild who veers off course to explore the nearby city recklessly. She yearns for freedom and to get away from her controlling surroundings. Although her story converged with Chrys the soonest, due to her comparatively shorter number of POV chapters, Laurel did not feel as intriguing as Chrys, not yet anyway, not yet anyway. I am excited to read the next chapters of her story in Stones of Light.

Picture: Voice of War chapter icons by Joan Belda

Finally, far in the deserts to the south, we have Alverax Brightwood, a nineteen-year-old son of a thief living in a desert city filled with all manner of unsavory people. When he wakes up after his death in a pit of bones with powers that he most unediably did not have yesterday—powers that should not be possible—he decides to get revenge on the man who killed his father. Personally, I found Alverax and his abilities to be incredibly interesting. Right from his first chapter, I was compelled to read through all of his chapters. Chrys, Laurel, and Alverax’s story (as you can probably guess) eventually all converged. Whether they intend to or not, their actions will change the world.

“Good men do what must be done, even if it is dark.”

Assuming that you click with Argyle’s simplistic prose, I think we can agree that his efficiency AND effectiveness in his storytelling is something that other fantasy authors can emulate. Not every fantasy book needs to be a gigantic doorstopper. If you can tell your story more efficiently without losing the impact, then do it. Another thing you might have heard about Threadlight trilogy is the relatively small scope and word count of the series for a trilogy of epic fantasy novels. Voice of War, on the omnibus edition, is 280 pages long. Obviously, I cannot say anything regarding Stones of Light and Bonds of Chaos yet, but Voice of War unquestionably felt smaller in scope and cast of characters compared to tons of first installment in epic fantasy series I have read. And yet, it worked. Mostly because of the characters and the magic system. Can it perform better with a bigger page count? Probably. But this is what we have.

“Friends do things they don’t have to all the time. It is the gulf that divides acquaintance and friendship.”

The magic system in Threadlight trilogy felt like a mix of Allomancy in Mistborn Saga by Brandon Sanderson and Chromaturgy in Lightbringers by Brent Weeks. Fortunately, I am not fussy about soft or hard magic systems as long that it is executed well, and I am a fan of Allomancy and Chromaturgy. So this and the investable characters bode well for me. As I have mentioned repeatedly throughout my many reviews, when you love and feel invested in the characters, many forms of story in the fantasy genre can work; Voice of War is a good example. Voice of War is inherently a foundational novel with an exciting action sequence at the end of the novel. But thanks to the relatable themes and understandable main and supporting characters’ motivations, even if a few characters still need more exposition or page count, reading Voice of War felt like a needed breath of fresh air in the middle of reading my usual (in the majority) massive SFF novels. It was engaging and page-turning. And Voice of War succeeds at screaming at its readers: “If you continue with the series, I promise the story will get better.” I am undoubtedly eager to find out.

“The only flames that are remembered are the one that burn the world.”

Lastly, I would be doing a disservice to the carefully-produced Threadlight trilogy deluxe omnibus edition I read if I didn’t share my brief review of the edition. Note that this review is based on my experience of reading the first book in the omnibus and browsing through the illustrations. The production value of the deluxe omnibus edition of Threadlight trilogy is magnificent for its price. In the Kickstarter price, the entire omnibus costs $85. That’s all three books in one stunning hardcover edition. And it has everything you want in a special edition. New custom cover art and design, chapter icons, post-credit scene, shiny sprayed edges and a bookmark, newly commissioned illustrated endpapers and fully-colored interior artworks, and then Smyth-sewn binding and acid-free paper. Plus, you can get a slipcase by paying an extra $1. So… you could get three books combined in one terrific production and a slipcase for $86. Even though the quality of the slipcase is inferior compared to, for example, the slipcase produced by Grim Oak Press, I do not want to pay an extra $40-60 to get a slipcase. That’s how much some fine press publishing is charging for a slipcase. Admittedly, the thickness of the paper is still thinner than I expected, too. But for its physical volume and relatively affordable price, it is not feasible for Argyle to increase the weight of the paper without losing more profit than he already did. Overall, this is a superb value. Reading the book using this edition was worth the wait, and I look forward to reading the remaining two books in the trilogy the same way.

Picture: The Heart of Cynosure by Andrew Maleski

Well, this review of a somewhat short novel ended up being longer than I thought. Apparently, I have plenty of things to say. In conclusion, if you are a fantasy reader who likes reading an epic fantasy novel with well-written and relatable characters and a hard-magic system, I believe Voice of War is worth a try. The themes of parenthood and family were so well done as well. And Voice of War is a fantasy novel suitable for those who love reading Sanderson’s books and want a lite or smaller version of them while retaining many of the good parts. The epic fantasy genre is understandably flooded with doorstoppers because they often need the extra word count for a more complex and intricate world-building, characterizations, plotting, and more. Voice of War gets to the meat swiftly, and this decision might not work for everyone. It usually doesn’t for me. But as a foundational installment, Voice of War was engaging to read. It hints potential that Stones of Light and Bonds of Chaos will be superior, and I am excited to find out soon.

“Wishing. Hoping. They are dangerous words. If you hope for something to be true and it is not, that realization can break you. But until then, while that belief runs warm in your blood, it can drive you to do amazing things.”

You can order this book from: Amazon | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

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