Review: Voice of War by Zack Argyle

Review: Voice of War by Zack ArgyleVoice of War by Zack Argyle

Pages: 380

Indies Today 2020 Best Fantasy Award


While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers—those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.

A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea, never expecting that her journey would end in chains.

Far in the deserts to the south, a young man's life changes after he dies.

When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the growing voice in his mind.

Together, these three will change the world—whether they intend to or not.

Voice of War begins the award-winning Threadlight series, filled with unique magic, exotic creatures, and a diverse cast of characters you'll love and hate.

This book is a hard one for me to review for multiple reasons. I read this as part of the BBNYA competition so I felt obligated to finish it. I might have stopped reading after the first chapter if I didn’t. Before I read it, I saw the book on a lot of ‘best fantasy’ lists. Friends recommended and loved the series. The cover looks amazing, and I’m a sucker for a good cover. People praised the magic system, the world-building, and the characters. And still, despite everyone loving it (3.96 average rating on Goodreads out of 440 ratings at the time of writing), I couldn’t see past that first chapter.

Let’s start with some good points first. The magic system is interesting. I haven’t read anything like it before and it made for some interesting fight scenes. The characters are vivid with strong personalities. I didn’t like every character, but that’s okay. Some characters are written to make you dislike them. The writing was good, the editing too, aside from a few slip-ups and I don’t know if the version I got is the same as the published book. Generally, it’s not a good idea to take a salt water bath with an open chest wound. But these were tiny things that most people would skip over, or wouldn’t give a second thought. I might have skipped over it too because of everything else happening. But I was wary, and I couldn’t drop my guard and immerse myself fully.

The thing that put me off happened in the first chapter. The author jumps right into one of the most horrible rituals in his world. When a child is born, the baby is brought to the temple for an examination. The parents of this child needed his eyes to be blue or green since that would indicate a magic ability. The witness, however, said the child had brown eyes. The parents immediately burst into tears, and the priest takes the child and pours acid into his eyes to blind him. This child is three days old when this happens.

There wasn’t much explanation beyond the basics of the ritual and I thought it was horrible. A child was turned blind because he had brown eyes, instead of blue or green. I have brown eyes and was raised in an area with a lot of blue- and green-eyed people. They didn’t like me because my colouring, my brown eyes, my brown hair, my brown skin. Reading this, mutalating a three-day old child because of his eye colour is horrible. And while this wasn’t racism, it did feel like othering. You’re different, so you’re being punished. I would’ve stopped reading because a lot of bad emotions came up and I couldn’t shake that feeling.

Only later did I understand that not all brown-eyed people were claimed by the priests and turned blind. The first- and second-born children, regardless of eye colour, would stay with their parents. And one of the brown-eyed characters is a strong-willed female general. If I had known this before the ritual, or it was better explained, I probably would’ve given this a higher rating. As it is, the shock factor is too heavy and turned me off.

That’s why I’m giving it a 3.5. It’s a relatively minor thing in an otherwise enjoyable book. If you don’t mind this (and a lot of people didn’t even pick up on this or saw it as a problem) and you like epic fantasy, you’ll probably like this.

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