Arthur McInerney and his crew of summonlings are back and this time it gets even uglier. Welcome to David Gosnell's The Wielder: Sworn Vengeance. We're glad you could join us. Don't get comfortable though: This one is a rough ride with accusations, betrayal and the search for vengeance. Arthur's methods aren't gentle and they shouldn't be. When the goal of the enemy is no less than the invasion and capture of the Earth by the demons of hell, the time for subtlety is past. Arthur and his friends go through the ring and come out again. Whether they're stronger or not is questionable.
This one starts off with a bang. Malgdorath, Arthur's nemesis and all around evil creep, is at it again and he is succeeding in his plan of promoting religious strife to bring the world closer to Hell. It's a scary time with news broadcasts showing violence daily. Enemies aren't always who we think they are and friends aren't always bound to a human frame of reference. Some "friends" just flat out aren't friends. The whole world has lost it's mind and things are continually getting worse.
It's into this environment that our hero, Arthur McInerney, finds himself thrust as a result of his failure to destroy Malgdorath in The Wielder: Betrayal. He's in for the fight of his life and he knows it. That is, IF he can find Malgdorath. You would think that finding an evil demon would be easy, but not so much. Much of the book involves fighting and looking. Frustation abounds.
Arthur, of course, also has to deal with personality conflicts among his summonlings and this time it gets nasty, with his succubus turning herself into a hag because she's having a snit. I found it funny. Arthur sometimes manages to say things to his summonlings that cause all kinds of problems without meaning to. That makes a lot of sense because how many of us have hurt someone without meaning to, simply by saying something? I know I have.
The fight scenes in this book are awesome and once again very reminiscent of a battle out of a MMORPG. This time it has more of a boss fight feel than a Battle Ground feel but it's definitely there. I was into the book on one hand and on the other I couldn't help but here my raid leader screaming "Kill the adds!" Seriously. They were well written and fast paced. There was definitely one fight that didn't end quite the way I expected it to. It did, however end in a logical manner that sets up the next book.
The scary thing about this book isn't the demons. It's not the magical conjurations or even the attempt to turn Earth into a literal hell. No, I see this book in light of my history degree. The terrifying thing here is that much of the conflict in The Wielder: Sworn Vengeance could happen at any time. Christians fighting Muslims is nothing new. Vlad the Impaler earned his nickname (No, his mother did not call him her "little impy" when he was growing up.) by impaling his enemies and those who had betrayed him and his kingdom as a Christian at war with Muslims. (And he's still considered to be a national hero in Romania because he kept the Muslims/Ottoman Empire out.) ISIS is beheading Christians daily. The attempts by the demons to draw Israel and the greater Jewish community into the fray ring too true for comfort. I really liked this part of the book but it haunts me. We could see something similar emerge in the near future and it wouldn't take a supernatural event to make it occur. This one is going to keep me up at night.
Gosnell has a feel for just how much reality and vice versa. Too far one way and this book becomes a cartoon. Too far in the other direction and it becomes a half-assed documentary. Somehow though, he manages to blend them in seemlessly and in the right proportions. We're on the edge of our seats the whole way wondering if this thing is going to tip.
Maybe equally as important is the fact that Gosnell doesn't take sides in the religious conflict in his book. There is no over the top moralizing. There is no proselytizing. Gosnell writes the narrative as a narrative and not a religious tract. He's not asking you to take side against anyone but Malgdorath and company who are basically using people of all faiths for his own ends. I looked for a moral. Not only did I not find one, I didn't find so much as an attempt at one. That's good. If I want to be preached to, I'll go to church. Gosnell doesn't do that.
I really have one complaint about the work and it's one I've brought up about a lot of books that I've reviewed: I hate Cliff Hanger! He's an asshole! Look, I was going to buy the next book anyway. There's no reason to do this to me. I quit watching prime time TV for exactly this reason. I don't need to be left hanging for months/years an author writes the next one. It's just frustrating. I've hated cliffhangers since the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Best of Both Worlds. Oh noes the Borg have Picard. What's going to happen now? I guess we'll find out in September... Ugh. My opinion of cliff hangers has not improved since.
Having said as much, I really did enjoy this book. I went through it in like a day. It was a roaring good time. I'm looking forward to the next one. For all my whining about a cliffhanger, I didn't read the preview at the end. Fortunately for me I just checked Amazon and it looks like there has been a sequel released already. I'll be picking that up before too long, rest assured. It sounds like a good one.
Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Swords of Light
The Wielder: Sworn Vengeance
Self Published, 2013
The Wielder: Sworn Vengeance is available at the link below: