Entering the third instalment of David Hair's series, we can feel the tension rising in all story-lines across Urte. The war rages on and the Rondians are being forced back to Yuros with the discovery of Keshi mages, a phenomenon not expected in the Third Crusade. Friendships are split and unlikely relationships form through the need of survival. Running parallel to the devastation of war is the collapse of politics in Antiopia, where usual conventions are challenged by female voices rising above the men's and equality is desired. And then there's the Scytale of Corineus, which is yet to be deciphered and is the key to stopping the corruption that fills Urte as long as it stays in the right hands.
It still lies in the hands of Alaron, who is now on the run with Ramita after a fight with the Inquisitor's and souldrinker's that attacked them on the Isle of Glass. Although the Inquisitor's were there to fight Alaron and take the Scytale away for their own gain, the souldrinker's were there for Ramita but are now aware of the powerful artefacts existence. As they begin their unlikely journey together, another emerges when Cymbella finds herself taken prisoner by the souldrinker's and is looked after by the alpha male, Zaqri, and the battle of attraction and vengeance begins between them. Queen Cera Nesti rallies her people behind her to stop the Dorobon from taking full control while Gurvon finds himself under more pressure to succeed after continuous close-calls and failings in Brochena. Ramon and the rest of his rank walk slowly back towards Yuros with the Keshi hot on their trail, and Ramon tries his best not to lose all the gold he has acquired. Amongst it all are Elena and Kazim, souldrinker and mage who have fallen in love and are fighting in the shadows for justice.
A common occurrence in this series of books is the prologue scene, where we are taken back in time to a year before the Moontide amongst the Pallas committee with Living Saint Lucia Sacrecour, her son the Emperor, and the head powers of their respective jobs and regions. After the discovery of people's souls being transferred into animals to be used as slaves, the beginning of the plot is unveiled in this meeting through the introduction of Magister Naxius. It is quickly determined that it was planned all along and agreed upon by none other but the Living Saint herself (not really looking all that saintly any more). They are created by individuals with symbols on their heads that mark their names and what they are, the one used in the prologue called Delta. Delta and the other souldrinker's like him create these animals through the use of solarus crystals, which are smaller versions of the crystals that keep the Leviathan Bridge from breaking under the water. The committee members are both shocked and excited by the power Naxius presents to them, although it is conveyed that there might be more to these crystals and Naxius' power than meets the eye.
Ramita is near the end of her pregnancy and Alaron feels himself becoming responsible for the lives of her and her unborn children. They fly away from the Isle of Glass on a small windskiff and head towards Teshwallabad to find Vizier Hanook, as explained to do to Ramita by Antonin. However, on their journey away, Ramita goes into labour. They land somewhere they think is safe, only to be found by a group of people called Zain Monks, who take them in and care for Ramita as she gives birth. It is through their leader, Master Puravai, that they discover more to their gnosis strength and knowledge on how to decipher the Scytale. Unfortunately, they cannot stay there forever and head to Teshwallabad with Ramita's twin sons, Nasatya and Dasra, to seek the Vizier, only to be faced with the threat of being torn apart by Huriya and her souldrinker's that continue to hunt them down across Antiopia.
Queen Cera Nesti is in love with her sister-queen Portia Tolidi and risks both their lives with their secret meetings with each other. It is through the power of love that she rallies the people of Javon to her. She uses her power as Queen to start a Beggars Court, where women are able to speak of the horrible things the men of the city are doing. Cera is not allowed to make any proper convictions, so instead she hints subtly of what the women should do to punish the men who deserve it. Gurvon is also involved, allowing her to continue to hold her Beggar's Court while he manipulates Francis Dorobon. It causes havoc amongst the Godspeaker's but it's all she has that makes her feel powerful, particularly when Portia is sent away after it is found that she is pregnant with Francis's child. Everything changes though when Cera makes a discovery and tries to sneak away with the help of a very unlikely friend.
Ramon and his cohorts are forced to head back to Yuros, travelling the long way around to get to the Leviathan Bridge while Ramon tries to keep his collected gold hidden and safe for the men when they return home. Cymbella is stuck within a group of souldrinker's who want her dead with only the challenged alpha male to defend her. Elena and Kazim are brought closer and closer as they fall further in love with each other, the relationship dangerous between them as mage and souldrinker but resulting in a phenomenon unknown to the world.
Unholy War highlights the dangers that are building and the desperation for power with cracks showing in all corners of politics. However, it also shows the power love has even in the most dangerous of times, where religion, appearance and cultural backgrounds are forgotten when everyone is fighting for the same reason: survival.
What I thought
I don't think I can explain how much I love this series so far. I always think that in a series there is going to be a book that doesn't have the same excitement as the others, where one has to be a let down in comparison. However, this series so far has just been great book after great book and I am really hoping this continues on to the final instalment.
Something I have really enjoyed in this series is the link between what is happening in the present and the committee meeting in the prologues. Having the connection not only foreshadows what is happening but shows how extensive the planning was within this meeting to be able to result in everything that has occurred in the story so far. A lot of the political games in this series has reminded me of Machiavelli's The Prince, which is an interesting connection because it shows how his extremist views on how to rule can result in a lot of bad leadership.
I don't want to write too much about my personal thoughts on this book because there is already a lot written in this review. The only thing to take away from this is that I loved this book just as much as the ones before it and I cannot wait to see how everything comes together at the end in Ascendant's Rite.
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.