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"A straightforward, imaginative tale of conquest and warfare." --Kirkus Reviews
From the Author
A 68,000 word historical fantasy novel.
On the surface, this book is about the military exploration of the Sarnese under the direction of their leader, Pharkol. But the core of the book is about the prophecy put forth by Pharkol's first wife, Simarra. She predicts he will conquer the outside world and take three new wives in the process, bringing one of them back to become the new queen. Forewarned and forearmed, Pharkol and his army march out to meet their fate. So it's also a book about the assumptions we make about the world and their profound effect on how we perceive events.
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After his success with Insidious and The Trilisk Ruins Michael McCloskey moved to empire building. Rise of Sarnai covers exactly that what the title describes: how the prosperous nation of Sarnai becomes more than it was before. The strength of the novel, the mighty general Pharkol who is set on conquering the known and unknown world is also its weakness, as often the scale of events is limited to the scope of a single man. However, the broad imagination of the writer shines through, and allows you to explore all the provided options. Even if they are not all realized within this book, it certainly makes you crave for a sequel. There is also a second, more character driven angle to the book, which allows it to stand on its own, unlike The Trilisk Ruins, which feels a little bit incomplete.
In an attempt to strengthen the alien nature of the world he created the author uses new words for many items. The use is consistent, but the overall effect varies. Sometimes it makes a scene a lot more powerful, showing the differences between Sarnai and the lands surrounding it, but it can also distract from the narrative, as the reader needs to spend additional effort to form a mental picture. There are some slight references to some of Michael's less known work, like Hell on a Leash and Slave of Chu Kutall, however, Rise of Sarnai very much stands on its own and is a welcome addition. I know most are waiting for his sequel to The Trilisk Ruins, but I'd rather see "The Solstice of Sarnai" or whatever the next book will be called.
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McCloskey deserves much more recognition than he gets. He really does have a gift for fantasy. The adventures of Nergal barely touched on the history of the land and its peoples, focusing more on the chosen cast of characters and their struggles. There was blood, thunder, babes and intrigue. I wanted to high-five my Kindle. The Rise of Sarnai caries those same elements that made me fall in love with McCloskey's books, but brings a depth of character to the world that I hadn't seen before. As the armies of isolated Sarnai set out to conquer the unknown world, they find the line between conquerer and conquered increasingly blurred. Those expecting routine adventure fantasy will instead find a surprisingly deep story about faith, survival, and the alternating dangers of deep-set traditions and bold new ideas. But yes, there's still all the blood, blades and babes that make the fantasy genre so much fun to read. This was incredibly satisfying. This $3 book was a lot better than a lot of $10 books I've read in my life. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
This book held my interest to the end. I found it interesting and somewhat exciting, although left to wonder where it was placed and when. Also, the ending left me wondering what happened next. All in all, a very good read.
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