This is the second time I’ve rated a conclusion to a grimdark trilogy with 5 stars, the first one being Last Argument of Kings in October 2016. Yes, it’s been one and a half years since I read any conclusion to a grimdark trilogy that deserved this rating. It also has been an entire month and eleven books in a row since I had a 5/5 stars read. However, this book truly deserves my full rating.
Chains of the Heretic is an outstanding conclusion to the Bloodsounder’s Arc trilogy by Jeff Salyards. The first two books were great but this one blew them out of the park; it’s by far the best installment in the series. During my time of reading this trilogy, I had this reoccurring question: “Why the hell is no one reading this trilogy?” That question was even more prominent during my time reading this book. This series’ lack of attention is ridiculous, because it is so much better than tons of popular grimdark fantasy series out there. Despite being first released in 2016, currently there are less than 100 reviews for this book on Goodreads. Are you freaking kidding me!? So many people say “I’m a grimdark/military fantasy fan,” but very few even give this trilogy a try. Seriously, to all fans of the genre, you’re missing out on something really great if you neglect reading this trilogy.
The story once again picks up immediately after the end of the second book as if it was a simple chapter change. Salyards has created something fantastic here. Honestly speaking, from the first book alone, I never would have expected for the storyline to ever turn into something this grand and intense in the last installment. The first book is seriously just an appetizer for the greatness to come within this final book. This book also resolved every plot-line wonderfully while at the same time, leaving some room for the future if the author ever decides to revisit this world. I need to also restate that, even though this is the last book of the trilogy, there are still plenty of revelations for the readers to encounter. After all, this is where readers will finally learn more about the Deserters, the Godveils, and the Bloodsounder.
Imbued with excellently compelling dialogues, intricately crafted battle scenes, incredible world-building, and most of all some gradual but spectacular character developments, Chains of Heretic was a magnificently written page turner. I finished this book in two days; I had to steal a lot of reading time during my working hours and it was so worth every second.
I’m risking sounding like a broken record by repeating things I’ve stated in my first two reviews, but I really must say this again: the character development is just amazing. Arki’s development from a simple scribe to a warrior, while also becoming the trusted companion of Captain Braylar Killcoin and a treasured member of the Jackals, was exceptionally well written.
“Joining the Syldoon was surely the most remarkable adventure I could have embarked on, no matter how things turned out.”
Part of what makes this trilogy so unique is that, even though the entire trilogy is told from solely from the perspective of Arki in first person POV narration, Salyards still manages to make it feels like a multi-POV book. In my opinion, he achieves this by implementing a lot of compelling, and at times humorous, dialogues between the characters, making sure everyone has distinct personalities and always have a role in the story even though readers get to see them only from Arki’s POV.
I feel like I’ve said all I needed to say about what makes this trilogy fantastic within all three of my reviews, but before I close this review, let me say a few more things about the battle scenes. It is not easy for fantasy authors to write vivid and intricate battle scenes; I’ve read almost 200 SFF books in less than two years and there are less than ten authors who I consider capable of crafting proper battle scenes, and Jeff Salyards undoubtedly deserves to be included in that list. The action sequences in this book were captivating, immersive, intense, bloody, and highly vivid. Salyards’s prose simply has a way of pulling the reader deeply into the heat of all the chaos; the only other author in the grimdark genre who I know is able to achieve this result is Joe Abercrombie. The last quarter of this book in particular was simply impossible to put down with all mayhem that had been unleashed.
“It is an exceptionally fine day for crossbows.”
I will admit I had my doubts in the last quarter of the book; there are so many things to resolve within the last 20% of the book but miraculously, Salyards did it. I really don’t know what else to say to convince anyone to read this book. Same as The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie and Manifest Delusions by Michael R. Fletcher, Bloodsounder's Arc is going to the top of my list of priority recommendations for grimdark fans. Chains of Heretics is a superlative and satisfying conclusion to a great grimdark/military fantasy trilogy and I sincerely hope a lot of readers will give this trilogy a try. A job well done, Jeff Salyards. I’ll be waiting eagerly for your future works.