Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Crucible of Chaos by Sebastien de Castell - Book Review

From the publisher: A mortally wounded magistrate faces his deadliest trial inside an ancient abbey where the monks are going mad and the gods themselves may be to blame!

Estevar Borros, one of the legendary sword-fighting magistrates known as the Greatcoats and the king's personal investigator of the supernatural, is no stranger to tales of ghosts and demons. When the fractious monks of the abbey rumoured to be the birthplace of the gods begin warring over claims of a new pantheon arising, the frantic abbot summons him to settle the dispute.

But Estevar has his own problems: a near-fatal sword wound from his last judicial duel, a sworn knight who claims he has proof the monks are consorting with demons, a diabolical inquisitor with no love for the Greatcoats, and a mysterious young woman claiming to be Estevar's ally but who may well be his deadliest enemy.

Armed only with his famed investigative talents, his faltering skill with a blade and Imperious, his ornery mule, Estevar must root out the source of the madness lurking inside the once-sacred walls of Isola Sombra before its chaos spreads to the country he's sworn to protect.

Investigate alongside Estevar and the most heroic mule ever to appear in print in this thrilling swashbuckling fantasy mystery by Sebastien de Castell, author of the Internationally acclaimed Greatcoats and Spellslinger series!

Crucible of Chaos may be read as a stand-alone fantasy novel and as a prelude to Play of Shadows, the first official novel in the Court of Shadows series!

I was first introduced to Sebastien de Castell through his Greatcoats series. The series, which is tremendous, starts out like an homage to the Three Musketeers but quickly becomes about so much more. De Castell's newest novel, Crucible of Chaos, is set in the same world (although later) as The Greatcoats and stars Estevar Boros, one of the King's Greatcoats.

Boros is known as the King's Crucible and was first introduced to readers through the volume of short stories Tale of The Greatcoats. Boros is known for his fondness for the supernatural/occult and his investigative techniques. Boros is like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Inigo Montoya (from The Princess Bride). 

Estevar Boros is on his rounds as a Greatcoat, or King's Magistrate, when he receives a summons from an old acquaintance to help solve a mystery on Isola Sambra, a mystical island just off the coast where there is an abbey of monks living. Upon his arrival, Boros is greeted by a knight, who warns him not to risk his life on the island, as the monks have gone insane. Boros is intrigued and begins the trip to the island. Once there, he encounters different factions of monks, a young woman, mysterious sigils, and a dead body. And chaos ensues.

This was an entertaining story. Boros is an interesting lead character and de Castell takes his time unraveling the mystery. It's a worthy, but different,  follow-up to the Greatcoats series. It also sets the stage for de Castell's next series in this world, the Court of Shadows. I would recommend it to fans of the Greatcoats. It's also a decent one-off introduction to this world.

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