The Bladed Faith
- Author: David Dalglish
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: April 5, 2022
- Publisher: Orbit
- Series: The Vagrant Gods #1
Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, murder, homophobia, gore, transphobia, grief, trauma, murder of children, misogyny
Every shadow hides a truth.
Every hero hides a lie.
A usurped prince will take up the mantle of a deadly assassin to reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods in the explosive start to USA Today bestseller David Dalglish’s new epic fantasy trilogy.
Cyrus was fourteen when his country was invaded, his gods slain, and his parents—the king and queen—beheaded in front of him. After years held prisoner in the invader’s court, a mysterious group of revolutionaries breaks him free and gives him the chance for revenge that he’s always dreamed of. In exchange, he will become the figurehead of their rebellion. He will become a hero to unite the people and strike fear in the hearts of the imperials. He will take up the skull mask and twin swords and become the legendary “Vagrant”—an unparalleled assassin of otherworldly skill.
But not all is as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance.
I’m super late to the party with Dalglish books, since the author’s note mentions that this is his TWENTY-NINTH book, and it’s honestly my first time hearing about him. But now I’m really impressed, because this book is seriously amazing. It pulled me in right away, and by the end, I was desperate to get my hands on the next book.
This is a harsh, brutal, and violent book. It starts out with the sudden takeover of Thanet, a small island nation by a significantly larger imperialistic empire that has done this multiple times over the course of centuries. They’ve done this enough times that they have the process down to a science, first crushing the rulers, then slowly implementing measures to break down resistance of the native population and ease the transition to the imperial ways, including their language, religion, laws, and way of life. Except in this story, the gods and goddesses are real and tangible, and the empire kills them as one of the first steps to crush the spirit and prevent rebellion.
The world-building is absolutely fascinating, and I really enjoyed seeing how the presence of live gods and goddesses played such a different role in religious beliefs, and how strongly they’re held in the population. While having their gods killed was a devastating blow that broke the faith of some, it also ignited a rebellious fire in many. And there’s a rebellion slowly building in Thanet.
The lone survivor of the royal family is the prince, Cyrus. He was held hostage by the empire’s regent, but was believed to be dead after a daring escape. And he’s trained and molded into an assassin by a shadowy group of revolutionaries who have a range of mysterious talents. The training is hard, and we’re given a peek into what he goes through physically, mentally, and emotionally as he undergoes these changes.
“‘I will teach you to analyze a foe’s weaknesses, and then exploit them. If they are stronger than you, then you will be faster. If they are faster, then you will be trickier. If they are trickier, then you will overwhelm their feints and bluffs with savage fury.’”
As Cyrus is slowly transformed into the Vagrant though, his personas begin to merge. He starts to struggle to see where he ends and the Vagrant begins, and questions his own motivations for doing this. It’s understandable that he wants vengeance against the empire, but he also feels some obligation to the people of Thanet, despite the interruption to his family’s rule.
There are two women portrayed prominently at Cyrus’s side, and I loved both of them, despite how different they are. They’re complete opposites, despite being sisters, but both of them play equally important roles in different ways. Stasia is the violent, bloodthirsty sister who is a true warrior, only showing a softer side to her female lover. But as the empire implements their laws, they aren’t allowed to be open about their relationship any longer. Mari is the softer and warmer sister, who is equally as much of a warrior in a different way, and I loved that she’s just as much of a fighter and just as important on the battlefields, as well as being explicitly portrayed as a fat character. Each of these sisters offers something different to Cyrus, yet plays a major role in the development and maintenance of his Vagrant persona.
One of the things that I loved about this story was that there were multiple POVs. We get to see the story through Cyrus’s eyes, but also through those of his allies and his enemies. There’s so much more going on that we get to see through all of these POVs. The story seamlessly weaves in political intrigue, crises of identity and faith, revenge, action, battles, religious practices, romance, both blood and found family, and betrayal. It kept the story moving at a fast clip throughout the book, and I was always ready to find out what was going to happen next.
This was a true underdog story, and while the empire is clearly the bad guy, we get insight into what certain people in the empire are thinking and how they think they’re doing the right thing, making some of them seem more empathetic than others, even while they’re not my favorites. After finishing this book, I can’t wait to see what the next book has in store, since the action and intrigue picks up quickly in the last part of the book and leaves us hanging a bit at the end.