This year, my entry is Last of the Exalted
“I would highly recommend this to readers are looking for their fantasy stories to be intense, fast, and character driven. The world-building is excellent but honestly this book really shines the brightest when it comes to their characters, their interactions, and dialogue, so any fantasy fan who loves the work of John Gwynne, R.A. Salvatore, and Mark Lawrence is absolutely bound to also love this book as well. I would venture to say that this might be one of the best fantasy novels I have read so far this year.” Rebecca Ross (Reedsy Discovery)
Hidden hands that pull the strings.
And four unlikely heroes:
Caelin Claver, Wayist priestess:
War. Always she dreamed of war. Blood everywhere, and no hands as red as hers.
Shadrak the Unseen, assassin:
He’d lurked in the shadows of political society as long as anyone alive. Longer. A party here, a fundraiser there, public ceremonies, dodgy meetings. Shadrak never forgot even the smallest detail, and what with the gossip on the street, and his dealings with the wealthy merchants who bankrolled those in high office, it wasn’t exactly hard to put names to faces.
Nyra Sahtis, skald:
Her father had used every tool in his considerable arsenal to beat the human out of her and force her Slathian nature to grow. He’d been a monster, but now…. She tried not to imagine what secrets he might have brought back from Tho’Agoth. Hopefully, he never made it home alive.
The Nameless Dwarf, once a king:
What had started out as an overnight shelter in the Southern Crags was going to end up his tomb. The Nameless Dwarf had always known that. Something about the cave at the foot of a fissure reminded him of Arx Gravis, where he’d grown up. That was why he’d stayed a second night, then a third. Before he knew it an entire year had passed. One year turned into two, and after that his only measure of time was the greyness that crept inexorably into his beard.
LAST OF THE EXALTED
He was a curse upon the dwarves.
Then their savior.
But after the tragic loss of his wife, the Nameless Dwarf stood down from the throne of Arnoch and went into the mountains to die.
Two hundred years later, the dwarves are a dwindling race on the brink of civil war.
When the hordes of Arnoch storm through the Malfen Pass, refugees flee for their lives, among them the half-Slathian storyteller, Nyra Sahtis, and Sister Caelin, a priestess who was once a trainer of armies.
But with the capital, Jeridium, under siege from a second dwarven faction, there is nowhere for them to run. And so Caelin must seek the aid of the lord she once betrayed, while Nyra is forced to confront everything she left behind when she fled her childhood home in the City of Sorcerers.
As rival dwarven armies converge on Jeridium, the Senate send the assassin Shadrak the Unseen to the Southern Crags to find an old friend in a desperate bid to avert the coming catastrophe.
For ancient evil manipulates from the shadows, and the dwarves are not themselves. And if there is any hope of bringing them to their senses, it comes in the shape of a grief-stricken warrior and his mythical axe:
The Nameless Dwarf.
The hero of legends.
The last of the Exalted.
“Derek Prior always produces masterpieces of storytelling, with great characters full of life, relentless plots, and gripping and intense fight scenes.” Mitchell Hogan
“Like Bernard Cornwell on ‘shrooms!” Dinorah Wilson