My friend who recommended it to me, told me that this is a “New fantasy seriously worth your time.” and hey, she’s damn right about it. I’ve read plenty of grimdark fantasy and in my opinion, this is one of the most original ones. In fact, I can safely say I’ve never read any grimdark fantasy like this book.
The plot in Faithless is quite dark, like the title, it deals a lot with heavy topics surrounding faith and religions. Honestly, I love the plot, it’s not a comfy read for sure, and it’s never meant to be. I’ll mention this part right from the start of the review, there’s a scene that happens off screen dealing with child molestations and pedophilia, these parts are not easy to read, seriously I’ll be surprised if anyone found it easy to do so. Do know however that this is appropriate for the story the author is trying to tell. It’s not there just for the sake of making the story darker, it’s not, these events provide a lot of color and meaning to the motivations of the characters in the book.
“History is full of brutal and ruthless men. They usually call them ‘victors’.”
The pacing may be slow paced, and yet it’s very compelling to read. This is due to the growing tension of the story with the turn of each page until it eventually reached the eventful and thrilling climax sequence. Admittedly, there was one moment somewhere in the middle of the book where I feel the pacing drags a bit but that’s really the only minor con I had on this book. Unlike most books I’ve read in the genre, Faithless brought something new to the genre, which I’ll get into later on. However, as good as the plot is, it’s not the best factors of the book. Judging solely from the plot, it won’t make this book reached the marvelous quality it has. It’s all the other elements surrounding it that made Faithless burned brightly.
There are only two main characters to follow here. Wynn, a 15 years old innocent boy who was sold by his father to work in the mines of Aspiration, and Kharios, a novice in the Temple of the Forgefather who’s facing many obstacles, that I can’t tell to avoid spoilers. The characterizations towards these two characters are something I truly appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t lovable characters but they’re very realistic. These characters at the core are good people, but they made some questionable decisions that maybe from reading alone, you’ll probably think “what the hell?” cause I certainly did think so, but, let’s not hastily jump to conclusion. I always try my best to put myself in the character's situation to know whether their decisions, good or bad make sense or not and you know what? Thinking about it, I honestly have no idea what I’ll do if I were put in some of the characters shoes here. This is a sign of great characterization in the grimdark genre for me, combined with Graham’s beautiful prose; I really enjoyed reading how the main and side characters develop throughout the whole book.
“His faith was not built from a belief in the existence of the Forgefather, it was from a need to set things right.”
The best part of the book for me hands down lies within its world-building. You won’t see the characters here travel the world; the setting of the book took place mostly in a maze of a gigantic mine. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that there is no sense of history or mythologies to be found just because of the constricted setting. This is where Graham excels in, despite the setting being mostly in a mine, there is still enough history for you to dive into. Plus, as someone who has worked in a mining industry, I can guarantee you that Graham has successfully captured the darkness of the mine and the implication of the setting towards the characters greatly. Last but not least, Smithing. Personally, this is a huge plus for me because growing up as a gamer, I’ve always been intrigued by the process of weapon creation and strengthening. Up to this day I still follow and watch all Man at Arms videos on YouTube, obviously that’s about all the real knowledge I know on the topic, I’m not an expert here unless it’s in video games. The intricacy that was done towards its world-building shows how much research was done by the author, and in a way, it’s also what separates Faithless from other books in the genre and made it a new experience to read.
If you’re skipping on this book just because it’s labeled indie, I think you’re making a big mistake because it’s better than most published books out there and you ought to give this a try if you want something original in your grimdark read. The story also conclude itself within one book while saving some stuff in case there is a continuation, regardless whether it's a standalone or a series, this is definitely a great book. To compare it with other Indie fantasy I’ve read so far, I think of Faithless highly as I think of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. They’re totally different from each other, but both are some of the best Indie fantasy I’ve read so far and something I’ll definitely recommend to fantasy readers.