ARC Review: Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

War makes monsters of us all…

The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, and running out of both options and allies.

The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward’s army, she pushes forward with her experiments.

Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn’t even sure if being human is something he wants. 

I have been highly anticipating this finale for a long time but I still kept putting it off because I’m always too anxious to read books in my favorite series. And I wasn’t entirely wrong coz this one gave me chills all through. I will try to be as spoiler free as possible but I also have lots of thoughts, so I apologize in advance.

Brian’s main strength I have found across this trilogy is keeping the writing simple but very meaningful, creating tension that keeps us on the edge of our seat for most of the book, and amidst all this “will they live or die” situations, he manages to write humorous dialogue that gives us some respite. The plot changes between many perspectives but it’s to the author’s credit that we never feel lost and also never get bored of any POV, whether it’s a main character or just some small player in the grand scheme of things. The pacing is breakneck with hardly any breather and I couldn’t keep the book down even for a second because I just wanted to know what was gonna happen next. The fights and war sequences are elaborate and thrilling and I also found them to be very visual that I could imagine it all happening in my head. It’s all masterful storytelling at its best and I just felt glad for the day I decided to trust a couple of my favorite reviewers and read the first book in this amazing trilogy.

While the writing and plot are wonderful, it’s definitely the ensemble cast that makes this series special. Silas is probably one of my top favorite male protagonists ever because he is both an extremely strong fighter who can kill number of people at once, but at the same time is also full of love and compassion and would do anything to end the mindless killing of humans and dragons, so that everyone could live peacefully. He is always on the verge of his transformation but is too selfless to think about his fate when there are many people to save. And I absolutely loved his dynamic with his dragon – it’s sweet and witty, with always some sort of bickering going on, but the love for each other is undeniable.

Ashlynn hardly feels like the Queen of Almira anymore this time. She is first and foremost a scientist who spends most of the book figuring out ways to control Ward’s creations and end the war. She encounters blocks and disappointments and failures, but giving up is not her thing and she only moves forward with renewed determination, at the risk of her own health and safety. She is brave and responsible and makes a perfect complement to Silas. They are one of the best couples I’ve encountered in fantasy for a while who would sacrifice themselves to save the world even if it would mean separating from each other. The book has some beautiful lines between them and I’m so happy I got to read their story.

Jolan is a perfect assistant to Ashlynn. He has come a long way from being an alchemist’s apprentice to someone who can help challenge Osyrus Ward. But despite his knowledge being one of the main reasons Ashlynn is able to progress in a safe manner, he still wishes he could be the innocent person he was before it all went to hell. Even after watching all the unfolding horrors, he never completely loses his gentle nature and that was nice to see.

We also get perspectives from unexpected characters from both sides of the war. Vera is present as always, the brave woman who will do absolutely anything to save her Queen, even if it means serving the enemy. Cabbage is this slightly timid person who probably doesn’t want to be fighting but will also never abandon his friends, ably protected by the very reckless Simeon who joins every fight like it’s his last time. We also get glimpses into Garret and Castor’s characters who are themselves unsure why they are fighting this war and keep trying to come up with justifications for their choices and actions.

And how can I forget the villains. While Vergun can be considered a stereotypical evil cannibalistic person, the joy he finds in terrorizing people is still very hard to digest and everytime he appeared on the page, I was scared for all of my favorite characters. Osyrus on the other hand gives off the mad scientist vibes, who truly believes all his delusional thoughts about creating a better world and treats everyone and everything in it like a specimen to be experimented on. He is a chilling presence and I was always haunted by the prospect of how our heroes would fight him and his monstrous creations in the end. But what I loved about the ultimate showdowns that we get between Vergun and Silas, as well as Osyrus Ward and Ashlynn is that the author ensures we understand that our heroes aren’t actually invincible and they can’t save the world just by themselves. They were powerful scenes and I couldn’t ask for anything better.

To end my review, I have to say that I knew this finale was gonna be too good because the author hasn’t let me down before but it still exceeded my expectations. This is epic fantasy at its best with its huge world full of kingdoms and cultures and rulers, loads of beautiful and majestic dragons who form a core part of the world’s ecosystem, advanced technology that almost feels demonic and which can rival any top SFF movie, chapters full of thrilling plot and unbelievable cliffhangers which won’t allow you to put the book down, and out of the world fight sequences that will wow you. But despite it all, what you will most remember after you are done with the trilogy are the amazing characters who have burrowed their way into your heart. And those absolutely heart touching last two lines… I teared up immediately because it was such a beautiful and perfect ending.

PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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