Review: Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky (After the War #1)

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What happens after the Dark Lord has been defeated?

“For that thing only, for the most selfish of reasons, I regret we killed him. We fought and we hurt and some of us died, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being a hero. I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew I was alive. And now he’s dead and we’re…lost. It’s like the world expected us to die with him, and doesn’t know what to do with us.”

I have been looking for books dealing with consequences of war and upheaval for a long, long time. I find the questions of what happens after the big bad is gone – how do they rebuild, how do they deal with what the war cost them, what has changed, what happens to the heroes and the leftovers of the big bad’s minions now – much more interesting than the standard epic fantasy plot of the events leading up to that. But few books ever touch upon that. Redemption’s Blade seemed perfect for scratching that particular itch.

Celestaine is one of the Slayers who helped kill the Kinslayer. Now that the war is over, she feels more than a little lost. So she, along with her former minion friends, sets off to help the Aethani, a race of winged people whose wings were systemically cut off by the big bad. The story from there on is fairly episodic as they go from town to town in search of a magic artifact that might help them and are pursued by a pair of artifact collectors who want to steal it for themselves.

Now this sounds pretty dark, and had it been set before the Kinslayer was defeated, it probably would have been. But this is a story of rebuilding and trying to do the right thing. And messing up. A lot. Celestaine and her fellowship quickly learn that trying to fix things often has unintended consequences. And it’s about empathy and, well, redemption.

However. While the premise was great, I found myself stalling a lot during the book, precisely because of the episodic nature of the plot. It was very…come to town, look for the artifact, encounter something affected by the war, get in some mess, learn that the artifact isn’t there but maybe in the next town. Rinse, repeat, for what felt like ten times. The characters were good (okay, I didn’t feel the romance at all, but nothing new for epic fantasy), so was the worldbuilding, the musings on “what now” were fantastic, but it was still fairly tedious to read because it was so…predictable and not in a good way. More in a “oh god, how many more times this will repeat before the end, there’s still over half the paperback left” way.

Would I recommend it? Perhaps. If you’re also interested in the concept, I think it could be worth a try. It’s still one of the best books on this particular theme I read. Just as long as you aren’t annoyed by this particular plot structure.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 3.5/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for books about the aftermath
Not recommended to: those annoyed by repetitive episodic plots

Content warning: body horror, parasites (relatively brief descriptions, but it’s there)

2 thoughts on “Review: Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky (After the War #1)”

  1. A very insightful review! 😀 I love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing and I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. I found it interesting that a different author picked up the tale in the next book too…

    Liked by 1 person

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