Review – The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2), by Richard Swan

Richard Swan‘s THE TYRANNY OF FAITH is a fantastic follow up to THE JUSTICE OF KINGS. One of my favorite things about second volumes in a secondary world is that they expand the world you see in the first book. THE TYRANNY OF FAITH does that, and more.

In the first book, we met a lawman, his clerk, and a man-at-arms who were embroiled in the periphery of a political struggle that was undermining the very foundations of the empire they served. In this book, the move from the periphery to the empire’s heart, and discover the rot they thought they’d addressed ran far deeper than they possibly imagined

Interestingly, the nominal antagonist, power mad priest (sorry, “patria”) Bartholomew Claver is simultaneously present and absent from the story. His malign influence touches everything, but the real force of antagonism that Justice Konrad Vonvalt, narrator Helena Sedanka, and their small-but-expanded retinue confront is–to put it blithely–bureaucratic bloat. They arrive in the imperial capital and find an administrative state that is corrupt, inept, and immobilized by inertia. They see an imperial governance riven by factionalism that runs on familiar lines (secular vs religious) and new ones (political factions in a senate). They are tasked with righting the ship, but the ship itself seems reluctant to be righted. And as they struggle, each of them continues their transformation from idealized to pragmatic, possibly all the way to corrupt. To what lengths could one go to save an empire for itself?

Similarly to the first book, this volume draws fascinating historical analogies and raises complicated questions it leaves to the reader to answer. It is not hard to see the Roman Senate in the years before Julius Caesar crosses the Tiber in the Sovan Imperial Capital. It is not hard to see the corruption inherent in the Crusader States established in 11th and 12th centuries in the Sovan Templar’s wars on the frontiers. It is not hard to see the twisted incentives of our own modern politicians… shall we say… dubious relationship with the truth in the Sovan senate. What is more complicated is trying to discern what choices the characters make that were wrong?

Where, when you begin to walk a path of expedience or necessity do you cross over into being an agent of the corruption you ostensibly set out to combat?

Putting aside the cerebral aspects of the book, it kicks ass and is fun to read. The dark eldritch magic and cosmology is expanded and explored (and is freaking gruesome in the coolest ways, also to avoid spoilers I won’t describe the cerebral-philosophical implications of these explorations save to say they raise very interesting questions about mortality the nature of reality). Battles are fought, blood is spilled, lives are lost, people grieve and suffer and endure the consequences of doing these things.

Also there’s a dog. I’m reliably informed that people like dogs.

Buy it from your local independent bookstore, Seattle if you must, or

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s