I’m a judge for the first-ever SPSFC (Self Published Science Fiction Contest), but couldn’t help noticing the parallel SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off) contest happening. I always love finding some new indie authors and books, so I decided to read through the finalists of that contest and review them on my site. As always, let me know your own thoughts in the comments.
Legacy of the Brightwash: Tainted Dominion I by Krystle Matar
Legacy of the Brightwash starts with a body washed up on shore. It’s been brutalized, and it’s a child. I was ready after that opening chapter for a grim fantasy mystery, but was a bit surprised by how Matar delivered it. Tashué is a tinman–a kind of law enforcement officer who for years hasn’t compromised his dedication to law. But as he investigates this mystery, and interacts with those who are on the wrong side of the law throughout the city (including his son), he starts to lose confidence in his dedication to law.
One star of the show is certainly the world Matar makes. I kept wanting to know more and explore more of the city, plumb its depths, and discover more about the way it was being run. Much of this is tapped into by Tashué’s perspective, though I still felt myself wanting more of the city itself at times. How did it get this way? Part of that is the mystery at the core of the book, but part of it is left either to an upcoming book in the series or to readers’ imaginations. The world puts its hooks in and holds on. I found myself thinking about it even when I wasn’t actively reading the book.
Tashué is an intriguing protagonist, and his foil, Stella, has her own motivations that start to get revealed later. As the plot really starts to open up about 40% in, Matar deftly moves it along without losing too much steam. However, I did think it was in this lengthy middle portion that the book started to drag. The pace of plot revelations slowed down, and the story with Stella started to feel more and more like a lost strand. Matar does a good job tying it all back together towards the end, but by then enough other major characters and plot points have been introduced to make it seem like a bit of an afterthought. The will-they-or-won’t-they is strung along just a bit too long, and it got to feeling like it just needed to be resolved. The central mystery went in a direction I most definitely did not expect, but in a good way.
I’d be remiss not to mention a central point of the book, which is how frequently people are willing to use the skills and talent of those they label as “other” or “less than.” This is a truly major theme throughout the book, especially following one character who has the ability to heal but is an outcast because of it. It looms large in other parts of the book, as well. I thought this was a welcome theme and it kept me thinking throughout the book.
Legacy of the Brightwash is a good read for those interested in gaslamp settings and the intersection of mystery and fantasy. It’s a solid entry in the SPFBO.
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