ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art by: Books Covered
The Exile by Ryan Cahill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Bound and the Broken (Book #2.5 of 4 or 5)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 184 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 19th May 2022 by Ryan Cahill (Self-published)
Incredibly action-packed, engaging, and surprisingly emotional, The Exile is hands down the best installment in The Bound and The Broken series so far.
“War is no different to peace. It is simply more honest. Do not hesitate, do not contemplate mercy. Remember everything I have taught you.”
I know that sounds crazy, especially considering how relatively small The Exile is compared to the main novels. But I have to give my praises to Cahill on this. He’s one of the few fantasy authors I know who can pull off not writing not only big-sized novels but novellas as well. Technically, at almost 200 pages long, The Exile can be considered a short novel. But regardless, I stand by my point. The Exile is an impressive novella about Dayne, my favorite character in the series that appeared for the first time in Of Darkness and Light, and he immediately left an impact on me. In a way, it’s even more impressive that Cahill could pack this much content and emotions as efficiently and effectively into a novella. After reading Of Darkness and Light, I wanted more of Dayne, and I certainly got what I wanted here. This isn’t me saying I don’t want more of him, though. If The Exile became a novel, I won’t complain. But for now, I’m content with this until Of War and Ruin is released.
“We will always want for time, Dayne. That is the human way.”
The story in The Exile revolves around Dayne’s vengeance against those responsible for taking everything from him. His family, his home, his people. The Lorian Empire took them from him, and Dayne is determined to carve a bloody path through Epheria to kill the perpetrators. By blade and by blood. In Of Darkness and Light, the beginning of Dayne’s story revolves around him coming home to Valtara after being away for twelve years. In that novel, we never know the details of what happened to him. The Exile tells the main points of Dayne’s exploits and journey in these twelve years. And yes, twelve years is a long time. It was never possible for the narrative to tell all of Dayne’s past in one novella or even one novel. I mean, his story could’ve easily worked as a trilogy! And I will not complain about it if that end up happening. However, I think Cahill did a great job telling the main points of his exploits by dividing the novella into four parts with different timelines.
“He had not found peace in a single death, not even the slightest of joys. Though any man who took joy in killing was a man worth killing.”
Dayne instantly became my favorite character in the series despite his relatively brief appearances in Of Darkness and Light. Obviously, it’s easy to say that it goes without question that Dayne was the highlight of the novella for me. Seeing the tragedy that visited him changed him dramatically has made me care for him even more. And yet, he still tries his best to stay true to his ideal of justice and virtue. Kindness for the innocents and his loved ones, no mercy for his enemies. But although this novella kinda works as an origin story for Dayne, it will be a mistake to think that you can just jump into The Exile without reading the other books in the series first. As the author mentioned, this is a companion novella, and it will be hugely beneficial for you to read the other two novels and one novella first before reading it. This is to get you interested in Dayne first, and more importantly, important supporting characters from the main series appear in The Exile. If you haven’t read the other books first, I think their appearance here will lose their impact.
“Part of me did die that day. Unfortunately for you, it was the kinder part.”
Cahill is an author that keeps getting better with each book. And one of the ways he exhibited this is through how fast he hooks his readers into being attached to a new character. It’s true that Cahill’s action scenes improved significantly from the time of The Fall and Of Blood and Fire. His action scenes felt vivid, brutal, and fast-paced. He’s not there yet, but at the fast rate he’s improving his craft, he might even reach John Gwynne’s and Joe Abercrombie’s level. But personally, it’s worth noting that great combat scenes lack substance if an author fails to make their readers care about the characters, especially the ones involved in the combat, first. And this, similar to what occurred to Dayne in Of Darkness and Light, is what I experienced again in The Exile for the new character named Belina.
“What idiot isn’t afraid of the dark? Did you not hear me? Nothing good happens after dark. You’re a storyteller. You, of all people, should know this. Tell me one happy story that takes place on a mountainside at night in an abandoned fortress.”
The passage above is spoken by Belina, and I won’t even be surprised if fans of the series think of her as their favorite character. Belina is a riot; not only hilarious but having her in the novella gave Dayne’s story opportunities for more emotional displays other than wrath, rage, and killings. Plus, I genuinely think Dayne and Belina have one of the best friendships I have ever read in a fantasy novel. This kind of thing is what made this revenge-centered novella even more powerful. The themes of family, justice, grief, love, and friendship drove the narrative. They act as the oil that powers the vehicle of Dayne’s vengeance. Similar to Abercrombie’s famous “You can never have too many knives.” Belina told Dayne that you can never have too many blades. But we’re also accompanied by beautiful passages about love and grief. For example, this lovely quote about love reminded me of the famous quote from The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. You will know what it is if you have read The Wise Man’s Fear.
“Love, my son, cannot be quantified by how and why. It is the intangible tether that connects your heart to others. It holds no conditions or rules, for if it did, it would not be love, but simply convenience. It is not found in the ‘because’, it is found in the ‘and yet’. Your father is strong, compassionate, and understanding, but it is not because of those things that I love him. Rather, they are why I admire him. He is also foolhardy, pig-headed, and he always says the wrong things. And yet, I love him anyway.”
As a novella, The Exile is easily one of the best fantasy novellas published. With this, I am finally caught up with all of Cahill’s published works, and I can safely say Cahill is on his way toward becoming one of my favorite authors. On top of telling a heartfelt and epic story in the series so far, he has laid a lot of groundwork for an epic convergence in the third main novel of the series, Of War and Ruin, and I am seriously excited to find out how he will execute it. If he succeeds in transforming Of War and Ruin into a book that top Of Darkness and Light and The Exile, then you will see me praising him as one of my favorite authors. Honestly, though… it’s only a matter of time until that day transpired. If you have not read The Bound and The Broken series, get to it ASAP! By the time I have access to the ARC of the next book, I will be reading it immediately.
“It is never weak to grieve for the ones you love… To hide your tears is to do them a disservice. They have earned your love. Let them have it.”
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