Book Review: Sorceress by Sarah Rayne

Book review: Sorceress by Sarah Rayne

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Sorceress (Wolfking Saga Book 4)Sorceress by Sarah Rayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC from Venture Press via Netgalley in exchange for honest review.

Book cover

A red cloaked figure follows a dark cloaked figure. They might be Rumour and Andrew (I am not sure though). The cover is tastefully done, with an air of mystery and fantasy.

Book Summary

Dark Ireland once again threatens Tara. The Amaranths hold the sorcery and the legacy of the Wolfkings, but as Nechtan, the old ruler, lies on his deathbed, evil things begin to stir in the Chamber of Looms. Young Theo is the only person fit to inherit Nechtan’s mantle, but evil threatens. The cursed creature Gristlen stalks the land, its corrupted form hiding a man-monster more evil and more threatening than even the Lord of Chaos, ruler of Dark Ireland, himself. Theo is in grave danger. It’s now up to her companions and cousin, Rumour, to risk all in an attempt to save her from this horrific foe. With this challenge, they will face all the dark and twisted creatures who rule and live in the dark – all to save the heir to Tara’s legacy.
Sorceress is a masterful return to Rayne’s Ancient Ireland, a land where magic and evil are the order of the day, and the heroes fight insurmountable odds to protect magical Ireland’s rule.

It is the fourth installment, following Sarah Rayne’s previous novels in the Wolfking series. It was originally published under the pseudonym Bridget Wood.

Book review

For the last two months, I have mostly been reading books from the Fantasy genre, as a part of the research for the book I am writing. I wanted a taste of all sub-genres of Fantasy and started posting reviews to learn the process of critiquing my work.

I am not much into the dark fantasy, so I was quite apprehensive about this one. I have tried my best to keep an open mind and review this book with objectivity.

A short book review

Sorceress has a vast and complex plot, but well developed and complete.

The book maintains a steady pace, with faster action scenes and leisurely romance. Sorceress is not a story of love and beauty but evil, darkness, torture for pleasure, lust, greed, and revenge.
The theme is good vs. evil, but the plot woven around it makes this book a great read. By great read, I don’t mean fun read. It is gory, violent, often nauseating and might give you a nightmare or two. The location is Tara, in ancient Ireland, divided into dark and real Ireland, where events from all the books of Wolfking series take place.

The author has described the ‘real’ and the ‘dark’ Irelands well enough to visualize each scene clearly.
Most of the scenes have taken place in the ancient underwater city of Tiarna, a secret kingdom of the Sidh, the palace of Porphyry, the grail castle, the slaughterhouse of the Crimson Lady, Lord Chaos‘s palace. The description of dark realm is haunting.

The characters in this book develop appropriately with the progress of the story and are complete.
The antagonists are fearsome, the difference between each other are marked and clear. Lord of Chaos is alluring, and evil, The Fisher King and Prince (father and son) are repulsive and menacing. The author has created a compelling and admirable protagonist with the sultry sorceress Rumour and courteous Andrew. The elvish (sidh) prince Maelduin has an air of mystery and initially appears as an apparent threat. The minor characters in this book play their significant roles but never drag the plot. Examples are Laigne who gives birth to the Fisher Prince, Quintus who is the lost brother of the Order, the Crimson Lady, a crazy and evil torturer of twisted mind and tastes.

As a dark fantasy book with horror elements, this book is worth a try. If you think you have the guts, read this. I am not sure if I will go for a second read, but I did appreciate the author’s imagination and power of narration, this time.

Though a part of the series Wolfking saga, this book is a standalone novel. I found the previous books in Kindle Unlimited.

Those who wish to avoid spoilers, please stop reading here.

Detailed book review

Characters

  • Theodora, the centre of this story.

Theodora aka Theo aka Princess of Amaranths, Great grand daughter and presumed heir of Nechtan, the dying leader of Amaranth sorcerers, lives in the Porphyry Palace. She is a curious child and one day, while sneaking into the Chamber of the Loom, she meets a Gristlen, the cursed form of an evil being, later revealed to be the hated and feared Fisher King.

Theo has an exceptional beauty besides being a powerful sorceress. That’s why the Dark Lords covet her.

  • Andrew, a monk from the Christian monastery, comes to the Amaranth palace on a mission to find a rebellious monk known as Black Monk of Torach
  • Rumour, cousin of Theo

She gives an initial impression of a shallow character loving gossip and extravagance, a seductress by nature. Rumour later turns out to be a powerful sorcerer, kind and brave, who risks her life to save and protect Theo.

  • Fisher King is a vile creature, originating from the sea. Cursed by his people for failing to save them, Coelacanth (original name) has become a monstrous, hideous, ‘pitiful’ being called Gristlen, who needs the willing and the warm embrace of a humanish to break the curse. His eyes fall on Theo, and he desires her Prettiness.
  • The Lord of Chaos

In the author’s words, the Lord of Chaos is

Not Satan, who tempted sinners to his wicked and sensual ways. Not Lucifer either.
But something closely akin.
The Lord of Chaos, who would ride at Satan’s right hand when the powers of Hell were unleashed into the world.

Chaos wants Theo for her power and her position as the heir and princess of Amaranth sorcerers.

Character development

The author has built up the characters with great care. Each of the characters is complete, with their strengths and flaws.

The antagonists are fearsome, the difference between each other are marked and clear. Lord of Chaos is alluring, and evil, Fisher kings (father and son) are repulsive and menacing.

The author has created a compelling and admirable protagonist with the sultry sorceress Rumour and courteous Andrew.

The elvish (sidh) prince Maelduin initially looks like an apparent threat, but later becomes integral in the plot to save the central character, Theodora.

The minor characters in this book play their significant roles but never drag the plot. Examples are Laigne who gives birth to the Fisher Prince, Quintus who is the lost brother of the Order, the Crimson Lady, a crazy and evil torturer of twisted mind and tastes.

World building

The location is Tara, in ancient Ireland, divided into dark and real Ireland.
The author has described the ‘real’ and the ‘dark’ Irelands so well, that one can visualize each scene with ease.
Most of the scenes have taken place in the ancient underwater city of Tiarna, a secret kingdom of the sidh, the palace of Porphyry, the grail castle, the slaughterhouse of the Crimson Lady, Lord Chaos’s palace. The description of dark realm is haunting.

Plot development

Sorceress has a vast and complex plot, but well developed and complete.

The book maintains a steady pace, with faster action scenes and leisurely romance. Sorceress is not a story of love and beauty but of evil, darkness, torture for pleasure, lust, greed, and revenge.

The theme is good vs. evil, but the plot woven around it makes this book a great read. By great read, I don’t mean fun read. It is gory, violent, often nauseating and might give you a nightmare or two. The author goes on describing pages after pages of bleak and atrocious actions of the antagonists. There is an abduction of a child for her beauty and power, brutal rapes by the inhuman Coelacanth, flaying of human skin by Fomoire, torture implications and descriptions of the Crimson Lady’s slaughterhouse, Lord Chaos’s harem of concubines. The few soft and tender interactions between the protagonists Rumour and Andrew, Andrew and Theodora, Rumour and Theodora, Theodora and Maelduin barely balances the gloom.

As a dark fantasy book with horror elements, this book is worth a try. If you think you have the guts, read this. I am not sure if I will go for a second read, but I did appreciate the author’s imagination and power of narration, this time.

Though a part of the series Wolfking saga, this book is a standalone novel. I found the previous books in Kindle Unlimited.

About the author

Sarah Rayne is the daughter of an Irish actor. She began writing in her teens, and after a convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, embarked on a variety of jobs. She is also the author of a number of acclaimed psychological thrillers and contemporary horror books, as well as a haunted house series.

Sarah can be reached at her website.

Book details

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Horror/Myths and Legends (Amazon)
Format of reviewed copy: Kindle Edition
Print Length: 448 Pages
Publisher: Venture Press (18 August 2016)
Language: English

So what say you?