“Grudgebearer” by J.F. Lewis

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Grudgebearer” by J.F. LewisGrudgebearer by J.F. Lewis
Series: The Grudgebearer Trilogy, #1
Published: 2014 by Pyr
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 415
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
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Before I jump into the synopsis, I’m just gonna take a moment to say how much I love love love love love this book.  Grudgebearer is epic on every level and chock full of squee-worthy goodness.

The protagonist, Kholster, is the leader of a race called the Aern.  The Aern are a nearly immortal slave race created by the Elderanni.  One of the traits that was used to control them is that if the Aern break an oath, they lose their psychic connection to the other members of their race and can’t even be near them.  It’s not a good fate, and so the Aern become known as Grudgebearers, making a conscious effort to keep every oath, even if it’s centuries old.

The book is set many years after the Aern have won their freedom from the Elderanni.  A stupid Elderanni prince unearths the Aern war suits and puts them in a museum.  The problem is that Kholster swore an oath many years before that if the suits were touched, he would kill every last Elderanni.  Kholster doesn’t really have a problem with this, because he is the oldest of the Aern and still remembers the horrors of his captivity in excruciating detail.  He hates the Elderanni and all that they stand for, seeing them as evil overlords even though most of the men who were alive during his enslavement are now dead.  At the same time, he doesn’t *want* to have to do it.  The problem is that this particular oath binds all of his people, and if he breaks it, then the very essence of what it is to be Aern will be destroyed.  There’s no good option or easy way out.

Now, part of the Aern truce with the Elderanni is that every hundred years, there’s a Grand Conjunction that renews the peace treaty between them.  Kholster can’t wipe the Elderanni off the map until the Conjunction is passed, because he’s also sworn an oath to be there.  As he bides his time, a reptilian race called the Zaur are preparing an attack of their own, and this time, they mean to see the Elderanni destroyed.  So basically, the Elderanni are fucked.  Meanwhile, the gods themselves are interfering with mortal lives, and the outcomes of their games could change the fate of the world.

So.  Frickin.  Epic.

Okay, so my favorite part of Grudgebearer?  There’s this character named Wylant.  She’s Kholster’s ex-wife (it’s complicated), and a legend on the battlefield.  She’s also allergic to the Zaur.  She shows up for battle and needs to pop allergy meds because her eyes start watering and nose starts running and she’s miserable.  IT’S A FANTASY CHARACTER WITH ALLERGIES!  I am allergic to life, so I can sympathize with her, and it’s a great weakness for a character to have.

Kholster reminds me of Thrall from World of Warcraft.  He’s this powerful angry leader who fights against the injustice of his people’s enslavement, but once they are free, he has a hard time moving on.  And it’s perfectly understandable, because what the Elderanni did to him was horrific, both physically and emotionally.  And yet, the world is changing, and Kholster needs to lead the Aern in such a way that ensures a promising future.  And ensuring a future needs to mean learning how to let his children go.  One of Kholster’s internal conflicts throughout the book revolves around his daughter Rae’en.  He’s grooming Rae’en to be his replacement one day, but he’s afraid to let her make her own mistakes, and therefore discover her own strengths.  He’s proud of her, he believes in her, and yet he’s overprotective.  I loved seeing how their relationship evolved throughout the course of the book and how Rae’en stepped up to the plate in moments where it looked like she was in major trouble.

Grudgebearer isn’t a quick read.  I started reading it more than a month ago, but it’s so complex and action-packed that I found myself taking my time and savoring it slowly.  It’s worth every minute.  And of course it’s the first book in a trilogy, so I’m *dying* to know what happens next, especially since the ending was not at all like anything I’d expect.  Highly recommended.

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