Q&A w/ David Dalglish (author of the Bladed Faith & more)

I’ve managed to keep in touch a bit with David Dalglish, ever since… I’m not sure exactly when. Point is, I occasionally can/do ask him pointed questions about the direction of his future work, and he’ll include a vague answer and smiley face which is ultimately unhelpful, but makes me feel a bit better about the 1+ years that I need to wait to actually find out any answers. Uhhh anyway, recently I approached him about a possible Q&A for his new book, The Bladed Faith, and the corresponding series, The Vagrant Gods, and he agreed to a little back and forth. Enjoy!

The Bladed Faith focused on Thanet entirely. Will we get to see any more of the world in this trilogy, or maybe later?

While the vast bulk of the story will remain on the island, there’ll be a few instances, either through different POVs or flashbacks, that I’ll get to highlight moments taking place off the island and on the mainland. This isn’t too difficult to do, either, given that the majority of the main cast sailed to Thanet early into The Bladed Faith.

No, I suppose it wouldn’t be an issue. Nothing against Thanet, but it’s comparably very little. I know it’s way too early to ask this, but would you consider/do you have any plans to return to this world after the vagrant gods trilogy is completed?

There’s always that possibility. Some stories I try to close off very neatly, and others I’ll leave enough threads open I can come back to it if I so desire. Vagrant Gods will be one of those I leave open.

Okay, so I usually ask who your favorite character to write was, but let’s mix it up a little. Who was your LEAST favorite character to write?

I loved writing all the POVs in this novel, even the villains (especially the villains, really). If forced I’d say the Heretic, Arn. So much of his backstory got pushed into book two for space and pacing reasons, it meant not being able to fully dive into his history and personality as much as I’d have liked.

At least you weren’t tempted to kill anyone off early because you hated writing them, I guess! Let’s say I was new to your work. I’ve just read the Bladed Faith. Where would you recommend I go from here?

I have two recommendations depending on what you enjoyed about Bladed Faith. If it was the frenetic combat and guerilla warfare, then the Shadowdance series, starting with A Dance of Cloaks. If it was more the characters and the world building, then the more recent Keepers Trilogy.

At the end of the Bladed Faith book comes an Author’s Note that I’d fully recommend (but then I’d recommend most of Dalglish’s notes, as they focus a lot on the writing process and serve as a behind-the-scenes look), as it details the project that the Bladed Faith was originally born as. Something on a massive scale, with dragons, aliens, stargates, and a plot set over a thousand years! Unfortunately, due to publishing issues, this was not the story that we got in the end. And yeah, I did ask a little about that.

Have you written any scifi before?

My first ever published fiction was a scifi flash story, so technically yeah. And for a long while my reading interests were more scifi than fantasy, too. The rejected pitch was an attempt to kinda merge some of what I loved from scifi and merge them into a more traditional fantasy story. Just, bigger.

Are you happy with how the story turned out? Or do you think the other one still needs to be told?

It’d be pretty hard to tell the other one given how much I basically pried the entire side cast out of it and also placed about half the first story into Bladed Faith.

There were some neat ideas, but I don’t blame them for rejecting it. Trying to sell the concept would be significantly harder than Bladed Faith, and as much as I loved the side characters (who are now the main cast of Vagrant Gods) they were going to be sidelined come book 2 and 3 original setup due to them mostly being normal humans and the scope of the threat was going to ramp up to ridiculous levels.

Now, that’s pretty much the end of that. I had some other unimportant and vague questions, like what color the dragons were, or whether or not the author intentionally set all this up to have the book released around his birthday—but neither of those really should be on here. The short of it is that: Book good; go read. Author nice; go wish happy birthday. And come back tomorrow for something completely different:)

The Bladed Faith – by David Dalglish (Review)

Vagrant Gods #1

Fantasy, Epic

Orbit; April 5, 2022

470 pages (paperback)

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Author Website

8 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Orbit for sending me a lovely physical ARC! And additional thanks to David Dalglish for taking the time to chat with me a bit more about it! All opinions are my own.

How did one weigh one atrocity against another?

According to David Dalglish, this is his 20th novel (something I’m not going to measure or question at all and just go with)—and what better way to mark the occasion than with a review…? Okay, okay, I guess I could’ve got him a gift or something. Might have to, after this goes live. Because while I did quite like the book, it wasn’t quite the adventure that the Keepers was, nor the chaos of Shadowdance.

But we’ll get into that later.

When Prince Cyrus was twelve, the Everlorn Empire came to his shores. A quick and decisive battle later, his fleet was demolished, his city burned, his gods defeated, and his parents killed. Taken prisoner to legitimize the Empire’s rule, for two years Cyrus was paraded about as the captive prince, until the execution of his gods gave him an opportunity to escape.

Now, holed up in the Thanet countryside, Cyrus is given his one chance to strike back at the Empire that took everything from him. The fledgling resistance—such as it is—needs a figurehead to legitimize their cause, and the former prince is perfect for the job.

But, his road to revenge isn’t to be an easy one. For while the island needs an heir, the path to freedom is not paved with diplomacy. Not entirely, at least. Instead Cyrus is secretly trained to be a killer: a god of blood and fury, wielding twin sabres and hidden behind a skull mask and cloak.

The Vagrant rises to protect Thanet, and to see its invaders to the shores.

But not all is as it seems. Cyrus’ god-given right to rule is not as solid as he once thought, and the mantle of the Vagrant isn’t the heroic role he imagined. Soon he will discover the real weight of his duty—and the price of his vengeance.


“You took from me everything I loved. My parents. My kingdom. Even my gods. I can’t unmake the loss, but I can make you hurt. I can make you afraid.

“And you will come to fear me, monsters of the empire. You will fear the Vagrant Prince when he comes to reclaim his crown.”

He lowered his swords. A smile cracked his stern expression to match the one on his mask. He laughed to himself, mood unable to remain serious for so long.

“Hopefully.”

As tales of vengeance go, the Bladed Faith is the start of a pretty good one. An impressionable boy willing to do whatever it takes to avenge the deaths of his parents, his gods, his kingdom. Willing to kill for Thanet’s freedom, even at the expense of his life. But the deeper he goes down the rabbit hole, the more he questions it. The more he learns, the more it haunts him; the lives he’s ended, the path he’s taken, the secrets he’s found. There’s a very real sense, throughout the book, that Cyrus is keeping it all together through sheer force will, maybe bound by scotch tape and bits of string. His mental heath is way past questionable even before he was imprisoned by the invaders that destroyed his whole world. That he’s just going to come to pieces at some point, some point soon. And the secrets that he learns—I mean, I can’t give anything away here, but it sets up an epic conclusion, one I truly did not see coming.

And while it’s great to see an author address the health and stress and mental battles coming with killing so much (and that becoming a “heartless killer” isn’t something that a person can just turn on and off with no repercussions), I would’ve actually liked to have seen a bit more of it. Let me explain. When you really get into it, the Bladed Faith boils down to two key aspects: fight scenes, and the exhaustion that comes after. I mean, yeah, there’s some set-dressing, some political intrigue, some world-building and lore and whatever else. But the key moments—especially after the halfway point—boil down to the fight, and what follows it.

It’s really hard to complain about the fight-scenes. It’s not like some books where that’s all there are, or others where they are too few and too far between. Plus Dalglish writes them so well! There a good amount of battles, scraps, prowling rooftops, ambushing soldiers, screwing up and having to fight their way out. When the battle is raging, the battle-lust is high. But when the red leaves their eyes—especially for Cyrus—the aftermath is near as intense as the actual fight. That said, it feels… incomplete, somehow. See, there’s usually a cutaway between the fight and the exhaustion that follows. A break in the narrative that occurs just at that point where it goes from “kill kill kill” to “what have I done?”. I think that’s one of the reasons it never felt really fulfilling to me. The other being that none of Cyrus’ heartfelt moments after seem to come to fruition. And while I understand the reasoning behind the latter, I don’t so much for the former. When it works—as it does quite often—there’s nothing to complain about. When it’s done well, it really gets you thinking, considering the story from a new perspective. But it doesn’t always work. There’s a… for a book that strives so much to detail the emotions of its protagonists, this seems like a strange tactic. Just a break when emotions are running their strongest, or their weakest; when the battle-lull sets in, and the lust fades. Yes, there’s plenty of time spent examining what happens after, but it’s “some time after”, not “directly after”. I suppose what I’m objecting to (as it’s not even that obvious to me) is the break in the range of emotions. We’ve had the highs of the battle. Then there’s a break. And now we’re dealing with the lows of the experience. This is predominantly what I remember happening (there are a few that go: highs of battle, then a lull, then a break, or lull to full downturn, but really nothing that encompasses the whole thing)—I suppose all in all, it seems a rather minor thing to harp on, but in a book that seems to spend so much time on the emotions of becoming a hardened killer, it really doesn’t ever seem to focus on the entire range of emotions.

For the resistance against such an enemy as the Everlorn Empire, whose borders span pretty much the known world, the tiny isle of Thanet is the perfect setting. We don’t have to focus on the world in its entirety. There aren’t a lot of unconnected POVs placed strategically amidst a vast sea. We focus on a little island a hundred leagues from the mainland, and the whole of the story takes place here. While there is lore about the rest of the empire, especially the farther we get on, the reader only has to really focus on Thanet. I really liked this; I thought it worked really well. While I was curious about the larger world (I always am—I can’t help myself), I was happy enough to concentrate on this one part of it so long as the story centers there. Now the author has hinted that the Vagrant Gods trilogy could just be one piece of a much larger tale—one that surely would involve a glimpse of the much larger world—there are no specifics at this point. And while I will admit that some fantasies that span the entire globe do turn out to be AMAZING, they can be quite overwhelming at first. And some readers can burn out on them quite quickly. The smaller, more centralized story here shouldn’t suffer the same. And while some readers will invariably DNF this, it’s likely not the number had it been a universe-spanning, millennial-long tale of truly epic proportions.

TL;DR

I’m not sure what the future holds for the Vagrant Gods, but I know I’m on-board for it. While it’s not the perfect execution in my mind, the Bladed Faith deals with far more than the stabby-stabby bits of an impressionable youth turned hardened killer. There’s quite the range of highs and lows, emotional and mental fortitudes, and long, hard looks at oneself within. And though the emotional range is a little lacking to what I might’ve liked, it’s far more than that of other books and media where our protagonist flips a switch between killer and average guy like it’s nothing at all. This story of vengeance takes place in the secluded corner of a truly vast empire, and rarely stretches beyond its shores. Yes, there is a bit of lore and history of the Empire and its wars, but for the most part our attention remains glued on Thanet. And I loved that. I thought it worked quite well as the introduction to a possibly grander story. It doesn’t overwhelm or distract the reader with dozens of POVs over thousands of miles; it concentrates on this little isle, so long as the story centers here. Which it does throughout the Bladed Faith, at least.

I’d also suggest carrying on after the main attraction to read the author’s note. These are hit-and-miss, often little more than kudos to everyone who made the book possible (which is great, I’m not criticizing them), but Dalglish’s often include much more. The writing process; his state of mind; how the story evolved, sometimes even through publication. I always love reading these, and this one is no different. In it, he describes the tale that the Bladed Faith could have been. What it started out as, and how it became what it is. Honestly, I’d love to post the entirety of it, but I’ll have to talk to the author first. Or, you know, you could just buy the book and read it then;) I will have a little Q&A later this week where I ask things about what this series could’ve been, and why it wasn’t—so maybe check back for that in the meantime.

April 2022

Honestly I’ve been pretty good about keeping up on ARCs this year, and the last couple months have not been absolutely packed with new releases that have been on my radar, so I might actually be able to get some additional TBR in. Right now, I’m actually reading the Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, which has been on my immediate list since it came out about a year past. In other news, the Alex Verus reread is going along well, and we’re on track to try Book #4, Chosen, this month! I restrained myself with new ARCs and requests again this month, and will hopefully use this to get a leg up on some of my summer reading. But then, if I do try to conquer both TBR and advance-advance copies, I’ll probably end up dropping the ball on both haha!

So without further stalling…

Currently Reading

I’ve a true three book rotation going at the moment. Finally picked up The Jasmine Throne (on audiobook), to read while playing Cyberpunk (which I’ll get to later). In addition, I have a pair of ARCs I got an early start on—Prison of Sleep (which I’ll get to later), and Equinox, by David Towsey (which is out in May). I’m really enjoying Jasmine Throne so far, and Equinox has an interesting feature where the same body has a different consciousness for the day- and night-cycles.

Somehow I managed another 8 books in March! Can’t imagine this will continue the entire year, but every month it does is a victory!

ARC

The Bladed Faith – by David Dalglish (4/05)

Vagrant Gods #1

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When he was twelve years old, Prince Cyrus’ kingdom fell. His fleet was burned, his city taken, his gods killed, his parents beheaded. For the next two years he was held hostage to legitimize the Empire’s rule. Following his freedom, Cyrus is recruited into the fledgling resistance as a figurehead: a skull-masked, twin-bladed assassin set to drive the invaders from his shores. But the Vagrant is a heavy mantle, and Cyrus hasn’t properly healed from the attack that took his parents. And the more he learns about his family, his right to rule, his new role as the Vagrant—the more Cyrus questions his place in the rebellion.

I’ve actually already finished this. Look for a review tomorrow or Monday, and then a short Q&A with author David Dalglish on Tuesday!

The Hunger of the Gods – by John Gwynne (4/12)

Bloodsworn Saga #2

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Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.

As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.

Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.

Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.

Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.

Mercury Rising – by R.W.W. Greene (4/12)

Standalone

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In an alternate history where Kennedy didn’t die—the year is 1975. Thirty years prior, Oppenheimer invented the nuclear engine. Twenty, humans first set foot on the moon. Eighteen, Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives repelling the alien invaders.

So… in living, Kennedy doomed the planet eventually to aliens. Somehow.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

So… Kennedy also gave early rise to both Peter Quill AND Casey Jones? The multiverse is weird.

Prison of Sleep – by Tim Pratt (4/26)

Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2

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Once Zax was a lonely traveler, one who would wake up on a new world every time he fell asleep, but that was before he reunited with his lost love, Ana. And before everything fell apart once more.

Now Zax is back on his own, but he has a purpose this time: hunting down the cult that once more ruined his life, destroyed his happiness, and nearly killed him. Both Ana and Minna are lost to him—possibly killed—but Zax is stuck moving forward, always forward. Though the end is in sight. And once he discovers the Cult of the Worm… actually, he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.

Something. Something epic.

Other Releases

One Foot in the Fade – by Luke Arnold (4/26)

Fetch Phillips #3

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Probably won’t get to Fetch Phillips #2 this month, so I probably won’t read #3 either. And the description of One Foot in the Fade is… vague. Like, it could describe any of the other novels in the series. So, instead of perpetuating this unhelpful bit, I’ll just post a link to my review of The Last Smile in Sunder City and say, it’s supposed to be something like more of that. Which sounds pretty good, to be honest.

Music

Just a couple of albums on my radar this month, though I’m sure we’ll get more as the month elapses. The Veer Union are a Canadian hard rock band out of Vancouver. I have… five of their albums? Manifestations is out April 8th. Shinedown, on the other hand, is a rock band from Jacksonville, Florida. This is their 7th album, and despite some of their previous stuff being… poor, early singles from this actually sound promising.

Gaming

So I’ve been playing Cyberpunk since it’s last next-gen update, and… well, it’s not terrible. Actually, it’s pretty good. I played it shortly after release and it glitched out before the Heist mission. I fell through the map and died, and each one of my saves started me underneath the pavement. Since then, I’ve kept my distance, but recently some of the gamers I follow have been talking it up, about how it’s actually decent to play now. And… well, I’ve also since upgraded to the PS5, so yeah.

I’ve put about 50 hours into it so far, and have very little trophy progress to show for it, which is pretty much the best thing I can say about Cyberpunk. I’ve mostly just been running around from one side mission to the next, doing a main story gig every now and then to keep invested. The story missions really try to hustle you along the main path, but much like the Witcher before it, when the game ends—it’s over. You can’t progress any further, can’t do anymore missions, or gigs or anything. So take your time. Which I’ve been doing. And it’s been pretty great!

There are still bugs. But they’re mostly just the funny kind where sometimes NPCs glitch into walls briefly. Especially after they’ve been knocked out. There was one where I ran into an oncoming truck on foot and it just disappeared. One where the Johnny-vision—where Silverhand’s consciousness clashes with yours—got stuck and kept going (it’s only supposed to last twenty seconds or so, but after 15 minutes it was still around. I just had to save and reload to get rid of it). There have been a few bugs that I’ve had to solve like this: save, then reload it. And they’re fine. Nothing gamebreaking yet.

Night City is vast. VAST. I will say that for the amount of doors, there aren’t a whole lot that you can open and explore. I really enjoyed this about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, where you could pretty much break into any Prague home and explore. Per capita, not nearly as much here in Cyberpunk. The game also doesn’t reward you for exploring like Deus Ex does. Occasionally you’ll come across some unique weapons’ dealer, or weird side-quest, or bit of random lore and lootables—I stumbled across a cave in the middle of the Badlands where there’d been some massacre, and the data shards laying about detailed a prisoner who’d harnessed a mech and gained his freedom—but don’t expect to run around picking locks or searching rooftops and sewers for interesting routes. That said, there are a lot of different routes you can take on missions. But only really on missions. I just did one mission where there were about a half dozen different stealth routes leading to the objective, along with a few more guns-blazing paths and the like.

Despite the bugs that are left, Night City is pretty. It’s not the most beautiful of games—partly due to the bugs, partly to the piles of trash everywhere (yay, the future)—but for an open-world sandbox, it’s really quite good.

I’m still relatively early on, so I can’t give a thumbs up or down yet, but I will say this much—it’s so much better than it was on release. Don’t know if I’d recommend buying it yet, but if you already own a copy, I’d certainly give it a go. The next-gen update is free, too, so if you bought a PS4 version like I did and have since upgraded consoles, your update is free. It’s worth the time I’ve spent on it lately, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say when they first released it, but CD Projekt Red has really No Man’s Sky’ed this quite well. Here’s hoping they continue to do so.