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- Print Length: 275 pages
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- Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B08428719X
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- Customer Reviews: 21 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,444 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Along the Razor's Edge (The War Eternal Book 1) Kindle Edition
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"One of Self Publishing's rising stars." - Mark Lawrence, author of Red Sister
“Along the Razor’s Edge will make you mad. It will make you hold your breath, pump your fist, pause and reflect, and swear at 2am. It will do all these things and more, because it is one hell of a great story. For me, it was more than just reading a book. It was an experience.” – Fantasy Book Review
“Rob Hayes is a master of fantasy. He has a unique vision, brilliant ideas, and the finesse to make it captivating. Furthermore, this is one of those stories that will sink into your skin, and stay there for a while.” – Bookworm Blues
"A fully fleshed out beast of a story about a girl who refused to be broken, who refused to lose hope of vengeance and those who got swept up into her vortex along the way." - Maxine's Obsessions
"This book had me from the opening pages and just continued to keep me fixated throughout." - Out of this world SFF reviews--This text refers to the paperback edition.
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Eskara, Eska to her friends, is our narrator and she may not be the most reliable. She weaves the past with the present and gives us little glimpses of the future, keeping you guessing and wanting to know how the hell she is going to get from her current situation to the next. She is small and can't really fight, so she has to use her brain to out think those around her, she uses her words to lash out and she is so full of rage that they drip venom. Over time those in the pit try and break her and all they manage to do is stoke the rage that keeps her moving forward. She has no problem using people to get what she wants as well. And what she wants is out. Out of the pit and revenge on those who put her there and those who made her feel powerless. Just putting it out there, she sure as hell seems like the kind of girl that will get her vengeance.
Eska is a big b***h, and a terrible communicator. If she put on her big girl pants, maybe she could of got through a little smoother, but she is only fifteen, she has plenty of time to grow, and I do love a good character arc. Speaking of characters, we are lucky enough to have a fantastic cast, each bringing something new to the table, they have rich backstories and I can't wait to find out more about some of them as we go on in the series. Although we might not always as Eska is pretty selfish and wrapped up in her own world and she could kill a man without bothering to find out his name.
The way the story was written, weaving the timelines together, meant the story was always moving, there were never any lulls. Hayes pulls you in with his brilliant first paragraph and he doesn't like to let you go. And when you do get to the end, you want more. I need more, damn it, how long until the next book? Hayes brought the atmosphere of the pit to life, he leaves you with a sense of dread. You are on edge with the characters, wondering just how the next hammer will fall.
It's a violent story with a dark feel. It's not just the pit that's dark, its the different ways he brings each characters own darkness out. We have a character that is essentially a pacifist, he doesn't fight, but you know he is a ticking time bomb. Another who is a racist bigot. Another kills someone every night. And then the obvious guards who like beating on people for fun. You don't always see it straight away, but he delves into these characters and brings it all out.
There is so much to love about Along The Razor's Edge; The magic and monsters are fantastic, the way he has built the world is great. I love that while a larger world exists, they are ignored by the Orrans and Terrelans, but you know that there is so much room for the story to grow. I love that he didn't make Eska unbelievable. She isn't some super human killing machine. She is an angry girl who was torn away from her family, who when all else fails uses rage to keep her going. I love that she uses her emotions to make her stronger.
Along The Razor's Edge starts with Eska and then slowly builds, adding more characters, back story, world building and magic until we have this fully fleshed out beast of a story about a girl who refused to be broken, who refused to lose hope of vengeance and those who got swept up into her vortex along the way.
Eskara Helsene is a great character. Her flaws are made even more poignant by the readers insight into her self awareness.
If you are fan of Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, the you are going to love this one.
Top international reviews
Look forward to the next instalment.
- Terrific characterization
- Epic plots
- Thrilling magic systems & world-building
So far he’s written stories in three different worlds, not counting the SF-thriller Drones he released nearly two years ago. With this book, we are introduced to a fourth new, different world and set of characters.
Along The Razor’s Edge is a provocative story that focuses on Eskara Helsene, a child sourceror within the Terran army who fought in the greatest war known to mankind. The war between the Orran empire and the Terrelan empire ended with the death of the Orran line and Eskara along with her best friend Josef Yenhelm was sent to a subterranean prison known as the Pit.
As the story starts, we are treated to life in the Pit and Eskara telling us about how she and Josef came to be in the Pit. We start from her childhood and find out how she came to be selected and how she first Josef. The author really gives us an in-depth look in to Eska and all that she holds dear. This is the first time that the author has used a first person perspective in the fantasy genre.
The majority of ATRE takes place in a subterranean hell hole wherein prisoners are abused physically and psychologically. Eskara and Josef are considered special prisoners as they are the last of the Orran Sourcerers and the Terrelans have grand plans for them. But for those plans to fruition, both Josef and Eskara have to be broken every which way. The main gist of the book’s plot is a about a jail break and it unfolds with all the thrills that one comes to expect from such plots. Eska and Josef have to find the strength within themselves and also find others who are crazy enough to believe them and bust out of the one place that’s virtually unescapable.
Eskara as a main narrator is an absolute a*****e of a character and brings to mind some spectacular ones such as Prince Jorg (Mark Lawrence) and Nyx (Kameron Hurley). She’s acerbic, vindictive and fatal to her enemies. To her friends, she’s loyal, protective and a person who will never back down from a fight. We get a strong sense of both sides within the story. She is a fascinating character that only plays out to extremes and from a psychological point of view, she’s very, very unique. What the author really explores is the concept of child soldiers or child sourcerers (if you will). These children with talents have been taken and indoctrinated and it’s very evident with the way Eska thinks and behaves.
The whole story has a structure that’s very similar to the Name Of The Wind in the sense that we have Kvothe narrating his past and similarly here we have Eskara narrating her past life as she contemplates the bleak life situation in the Pit. The way the story unfolds, we know somewhat of the future as Eska herself tell us but the journey is important too as we don’t really know how it all will happen.
How it all unfolds is wherein Rob J. Hayes really shows his special factor. As always with all of his titles, the characters are what this book so thrilling. Beginning with Eska but then we are introduced to several others: Josef, Tamura, Hardt, Isen, Prig and more. All of them are well-rounded and we are given clues by future Eska about their roles and destinies. This was really fun to read as we are given snippets about people and situations and then the fun is to see when they actually happen. This was an interesting tactic utilized by the author and I would like to see how the others find it to be.
Overall this book has a solid pace and that will have you rooted as you try to find out what happens next. The book’s main timeline is set in the present and the flashbacks as well as future snippets are well mixed in with the present timeline.
The world isn’t really explored much as the entire takes place in a subterranean setting. We get some clues about the general going on above the ground and those are pretty fantastic. I believe the author will explore more of the world (Ovaeris) in the coming sequels. There’s also a lot of non-humanoid races that get mentioned within this opening volume and I hope we get to know more of them. Lastly there’s the magic system which the author has very nicely explained over on his website and this magic system is purely based on ingestion of crystals. Rob lays out the specifics within the story and I thought there was a cool twist too.
The only negative for me about the story is Eska’s character, as she’s very abrasive and more than a bit unlikeable. For those who aren’t really into unlikeable characters, this book can be a struggle. I had my issues with Eska but I've to grant it to the author for making her a complete character. Who while being unlikeable is still so solidly written that you can't help but be completely engrossed by her sheer will to do whatever's necessary. This definitely helped me for my overall enjoyment. Plus the world building and magic system are distinct enough to help overcome any other perceivable deficiencies.
CONCLUSION: Along The Razor’s Edge is an exciting start to a new trilogy by one of my favourite writers. It has action mixed in with distinct characters who will make it hard for you to ignore them. Along The Razor’s Edge is a story as intriguing as they come and proves to be just as sharply distinct as any well honed razor would be.
Most of the story is being told to us from the main character. Retelling what happened while she was in The Pit. A brutal prison deep underground where inmates (also known as scabs) reside in the dark, mining tunnels, being tortured, eating gruel, and daydreaming about seeing sunlight once again.
I’ve never read a book where I felt like I was truly there with these characters suffering this nightmare. I felt the texture of the rock under my feet. The pangs of the pickaxe in my hands. Hayes has created an environment like no other and that is one hell of a feat for a novel under 300 pages. Even more impressive how fast it flew by. The pace reminded me of Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint.
This book almost feels like the introductory to a villains story. Like this is how villains are made. ESKA THE MAIN CHARACTER. A 15 year old very foolish girl. She will risk anything and everything for what she wants. You can feel the anger radiating off the pages as she speaks and as your reading the story, Haye’s lays out little breadcrumbs of backstory of her life before The Pit. How she was stripped of magic. Why she’s so angry. Her training at the Academy of Magic.
I aso want to make it clear that this book is bloody. It has artfully crafted, believable characters. It has relationships which feel real. Fraught, sweet, complicated, unpleasant, all of the above – but real. It has a vividly imagined world which blends the strange and the familiar in order to make something new, something that evokes the thrill of discovery as much as it does a justified fear of the unknown. The unknown being the dark, the abyss, The Pit.
- the realism
- the pragmatism
- the internal cohesion of the story; characters acting true to themselves and the plot making sense
I didn’t like
- the chopping back and forward in time. I felt it broke the flow.
- not a lot really happened in the book. Rather, a backstory is established
- I’m not a fan of magic systems based on ingesting things. Just seems silly (drugs maybe, but this is not that).
- the main character was a good looking young girl in an uncontrolled prison, but wandered around safe as houses from any sexual risk (just not realistic)
It’s still a 5 in contrast to most books, but among the top level books it’s not a standout for me.
That said I will read the next one because he is a very good author and earned the benefit of the doubt.
It’s hard to describe the plot of the novel without giving away too many of the story’s twists and turns. Eskara Helsene, a powerful Sourcerer lost a war. Her enemies sent her to the Pit, a prison sunk deep into the earth. Stripped of her magic, surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse, she needs to find allies, and play the inmates against each other. Her rage, never far from the surface, rarely decreases. Eska has zero problems with using people, both friends and foes.
Because Eska narrates the story as an older woman, we expect her to make it out of the Pit alive. Not only does she recount her time in prison, but she also teases readers about events yet to come. Such teasing can build suspense. I expect some readers will love it. I didn’t. I found it irking and tiring. Used once or twice it would get the job done, but we get bits of “foretelling” in almost every single chapter. Way too often for me.
Eska is a memorable (if two-dimensional) character, but she’s too over-the-top to feel real. Plus, I didn’t like her. Secondary characters? I barely remember them at all. Bad guys and bad things that happen to everyone in the Pit were rather predictable.
It doesn’t mean Hays didn’t surprise me. Quite the opposite. He’s an excellent storyteller who knows his craft. I appreciate the novel’s structure, focus, and Eska’s distinct tone. While not perfect, it definitely made me interested in the sequels.
Eska (which oddly autocorrects to “Elsa”, which Eska most assuredly is not) is a modern protagonist: meaning female, conflicted, bitter and wholly non-empathetic.
The tale is a ‘journal’, as relayed (it appears) by an older Eska who (to avoid spoilers) lived quite the life. In this tome (first of three books, I believe) it focuses on her origins while imprisoned in ‘The Pit’. What is ‘The Pit’? Let’s call it a hard labor camp, to avoid prison.
This particular tale is fairly close to YA - which is both fine, and unusual for Rob Hayes. The protagonist, for reference, is 15 or younger for the majority of the tale (while noting, again, that it’s journal written by her while older).
As a whole, this was - compared to Never Die (for example)- not my favorite RJH book. It took about 2/3 of its length to reach a period of true interest (roughly speaking, an introduction of an ‘Otherling’, SSesserak (likely misspelled) although highlights include an accurate description of youthful dalliance and regrets and the regret-cycle with her “bestie”, Josef.
Ending on a high note (not to be confused with “sunshine”), pulled this book from a 3 to a 4, and I do plan on reading the next book in the cycle.
Recommended for fans of RJH and of quality, character-driven fantasy.
The synopsis: No one escapes the pit. At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sorcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.
So what we have here is a wonderful story of a fifteen year old girl coming of age, finding herself, embracing her inner feelings and processing those issues in a really healthy, rational way.
Yeah, no, not so much. What we actually have here is a demented fifteen year old girl (with reason, to be fair to Eska) filled with so much hate and anger and rage that she will see the world burn before she is ever brought to heel. I loved Eska from very early on in the story – Hayes’ has done a phenomenal job of bringing to life her crazy world and her views. Often in first-person stories, I find that I’d probably prefer them as third-person but this is one that is drastically better for being told from Eska’s POV. There is so much betrayal and crossed emotions throughout this story, I honestly feel marginally drained from reading it. But in a really good, “I can’t believe I feel so much of what is happening” kind of way. I will be there day 1 for the next two books.
Something I really loved in this story was that old-Eska is telling the tale of everything that happened. This is rapidly becoming a favorite style of storytelling for me as I just love the references to things that haven’t happened yet, or the sadness and melancholy that can be brought on by having an older version of the protagonist reflect on their earlier life and mistakes. But, like, also, so so so much stuff has to happen to Eska from the point where this story leaves off and where she ends up that I feel like Hayes’ can easily write another 20 books in this series if he felt like it. And that’s before we even get in to the stories of his side characters.
That’s not to say that the plotting here isn’t tight. It really is. This is a laser focused story of a girl being incarcerated in an horrific world and doing everything in her power in her attempts for escape. It’s to Hayes’ credit as a storyteller that the entire first book can be set primarily in a singular location and still feel so page-turningly (that’s definitely a word, FYI) good that if I’d have had the time – and we weren’t living through the apocalypse – I could easily have sat and just burned through this whole book in one sitting. I have the attention span of a particularly distracted goldfish; it’s incredible for me to have that strong a feeling about a book.
I’m not a big flashback guy so when they first started popping up I wasn’t totally infatuated with them the way I was the rest of the story. I can safely say by the end of the book I was actually looking forward to those scenes just for the extra context they provide. If nothing else, sometimes you just need a break from the relentless pace of the present day action that’s happening.
The magic system is totally cool too. There’s these pieces of magic called “Sources” that very few people can use to cast magic. The effects on the Sources are totally different depending on what they are, so we have stuff like fire and ice, air-based telekinesis, thought manipulation and so on. But there’s a catch. Those Sources have to be swallowed, and they’re poisonous as hell. So best case scenario – you can use the Source. Bad news of that, it’s still poisonous and you only have so long before you have to puke it up or it’ll manifest on your body and kill you. Worst case scenario, you can’t use the Source and it’s still poisonous to you so you need it out of your body right about immediately. It was really cool and interesting to see how these Sources get used, maybe get a bit of background on them, and what I think was some teasing of potential stuff in future books regarding them.
Ending reviews is hard, so I’m just going to say one last thing. Rob J. Hayes knows how to write. I’m usually a story guy, I care a whole lot more about what’s being said than how it’s being said, but my god if some of his sentences and turns of phrase didn’t just get me. I have a whole clipboard on my Kindle of them now. So to end my review, here’s my favorite from the book, at least based on my first read:
“I’ve always thought war more of a mutual effort. If one side didn’t want to fight, they would have used more words and fewer swords.”
That’s pure gold right there, folks.