Review: Faithless by Graham Austin-King

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I wasn’t much of a fan of Fae: The Wild Hunt, the author’s other book I read, but I decided to give Faithless a try for this year’s Bingo challenge, after a sale, quite a few friends’ recommendations, and a nudge from the Random Number God. Absolutely no regrets.

The decision came easily. Perhaps every betrayal does. In the end, they all begin with a lie. The small ones we tell ourselves to make what we do bearable.

It’s not your fault.
There is no real alternative.
Anyone would do the same thing in your place.

I often complain about a lack of protagonists who have more ordinary professions – a lack of fantasy books about healers, farmers, tailors, cooks, and, yes, why not miners? Well, first two thirds or so of Faithless has this in spades. We follow Wynn, a farmer’s son sold to the temple by his father and forced to work as a miner, and Kharios, a novice priest who seemingly gets a second chance to prove himself. A lot of it is mundane, learning about how things in Aspiration work, mining, forging, interacting with the miner crew or other priests. And I loved it.

Then, it takes a sudden twist and things get more exciting. At first, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about it. I’m all about the boring stuff, and it seemed to come completely out of the left field. But with further reveals (and I can’t say anything because spoilers), it got better again, less rushed. It ends on a somewhat open-ended note, so even though it’s technically a standalone, I still hope for a potential sequel.

The main star of the book is definitely the worldbuilding. The atmosphere is on point, dark and gloomy as the mines themselves. You can feel the claustrophobia and unknown horrors lurking in the dark. I loved the religion focused around smithing and forgework as well – it’s intricate enough and seems well-researched.

It’s not a light read. Life in the mines of Aspiration is far from rosy and the temple, while much better, isn’t exactly ideal either (a pedophile priest…). The protagonists are somewhat self-serving, cowardly, and not the most likable. It didn’t bother me, it wasn’t unrealistic, but those who prefer heroes might be disappointed. There’s a couple m/f friendships without romance, which I thought was a nice bonus, and in general, handling of the (admittedly few) female characters is generally good, much better than in most books of darker nature.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 3.5/5

Recommended to: grimdark fans, people looking for unique settings and/or atypical protagonists
Not recommended to: those who don’t want to read about sexual abuse, those who need a protagonist who usually does the right thing, those who hate sudden 180° turns

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