Path of War by David Green
Eerie River Publishing, Kindle edition, £0.99
Reviewed by Shona Kinsella
NOTE – this review contains mild spoilers for book 1, In Solitude’s Shadow. So go and read that first.
Reeling from the events at Solitude, Calene Alpenwood finds herself fleeing across Haltveldt with Brina, the mysterious elf who she longs to get closer to, and Vettigan, her oldest friend and mentor, who has been injured by a shadow sparker to the point of not being himself any more. Calene finds herself caught between the empire she has served her whole life and doing what she believes to be right, all while trying to find a way to help Vettigan.
Meanwhile, Arlo, Zanna’s young but powerful apprentice, is somewhere in the Banished lands beyond Solitude, accompanied by Tilo, priest of the Banished, and surrounded by an army of the Returned. Kade follows, alone, with no supplies, in a hostile environment, and his only concern is the safety of his son. Kade is one of my favourite characters in this series. Flawed, addicted to spice, and full of self-doubt and pain, he is utterly devoted to his son.
I love how Green handles characterisation throughout this series. The characters all have flaws and needs, and motivations that make sense – even the villains. Warlord Nexes is a wonderful example of a villain written well. He’s psychotic and sadistic, and yet he has a reason for everything he does; there are points where Green even manages to evoke a little sympathy for this monster. We also see how the characters have been affected by what they’ve already been through. We see Vettigan fighting against the shadow which is twisting him into someone else and how that pains him. We see Calene struggling with everything she’s lost, trying to find answers, even when that search means returning to the one place she said she would never go again.
Path of War expands the world we began to explore in In Solitude’s Shadow. We see more of how the different types of magic work and begin to have a sense that they each affect those who wield them. This is done really well, shown rather than explained, and we are left in no doubt as to the relative strengths and dangers of the different magics.
These books contain a lot of darkness; there’s violence and torture, hatred and betrayal and the constant threat of more to come. The elves are facing genocide, the emperor has turned against his own people, and there are hints that the worst is yet to come. But there’s also a deep well of hope. There are people fighting against the empire, trying to do the right thing despite the costs, fighting against their own spark at times, as the power and freedom of embracing darkness beckons.
Green approaches all of this with maturity and skill, showing us the worst of humanity right alongside the best of it. Every now and then, as a writer, I read a book that I wish I had written. Path of War is one of those books. I can’t wait for book 3.