The Obsidian Psalm by Clayton Snyder - SPFBO 2020 Book Review

The Obsidian Psalm by Clayton Snyder - SPFBO 2020 Book Review

Write on: Fri, 04 Sep 2020 by  in SPFBO 2020 Read 7536

For my fifth SPFBO 2020 book review for BookNest, I review Clayton Snyder's The Obsidian Psalm.

What It’s About:

The Chant – a magical event of apocalyptic proportions – changed the world. Countless lives were lost, including, as far as Rook is concerned, many of the gods that once roamed the world and intervened in the lives of its inhabitants. But for Rook, a soldier and mercenary for hire, none of that matters much, as he and his coterie have a job to finish – no matter how dangerous. However, when Rook is killed and brought back from the dead, he begins a harrowing journey of self-discovery through time, and will quickly learn that those meddlesome gods may not be quite finished with fulfilling their desires for the world.

Minor caveat: it’s almost impossible to review this book in a way that does it justice, without actually spoiling anything, but I’m going to try my best. So, without further ado:

What I Liked:

The character development and plot are both non-linear. Each chapter’s heading includes a time period. These time periods serve as guideposts for the reader, but also, in a way, for Rook. There’s what I will call a main time period, in which Rook lives and dies and then lives again (not a spoiler, this comes straight from the book summary); then there’s a time period that jumps back and forth thousands of years to different points on the timeline – mostly Before Chant (BC) and After Chant (AC), but still not entirely so. These time periods will focus on other characters, but can also act as vivid, lucid memories for Rook. So, as I mentioned before, Rook’s character development hinges on the time period flashbacks, yet simultaneously, his journey in the present. This could be a problem for some, but I found it to be incredibly engaging, almost like a mystery that I needed to discover along with Rook. At times it was confusing, and just when I thought I knew what was going on, some other memory of another time period threw me off, but Snyder did a phenomenal job piecing each time period together.

The Obsidian Psalm is the grimdarkiest of grimdark books. Again, this might be a turn-off for some, but personally, I like my fantasy to be filled with a bit of misery (not sure what that says about me). I mean, seriously, this novel starts off dark and gritty and doesn’t lose pace whatsoever. Snyder tosses the reader into a world full of devastation and turmoil in which gods are at war and people are pawns in a sick and twisted game of survival. He puts his protagonist through quite a bit, but Rook can be equally as brutal. And the payoff – a final vestige of hope – makes it all worthwhile.

The magic system is fascinating and terrifying. It’s blood magic in its most ancient, visceral, and terrifying form. The magic in The Obsidian Psalm can enhance weapons and machines, while at the same time, be powerful enough for necromancy or to wipe out much of humanity and kill gods. 

Snyder fills Rook’s mind with intentional grammatical idiosyncrasies. Rook’s thought processes are, at times, a normal stream of consciousness type flow; while at other times, they are grammatically incorrect for reasons that I just can’t explain without giving away too much of the story. Just know, this is intentional, and while it may look funny at times, it makes complete sense and blew my mind when I figured out the reason for sharing Rook’s thoughts in this fashion.

What Didn’t Do It For Me:

Honestly, there isn’t much about this novel that I didn’t like; however, there are quite a few instances of poor editing. While this wasn’t enough to stop me from enjoying the book, it did distract and take me away from the plot at times.

The Obsidian Psalm is a dark and ruthless whirlwind of a novel. It succeeds in its experimental originality; I truly have never read anything like it before. 




Max’s passion for fantastic stories began with weekly trips to the comic book store as a child. Now an English teacher at a boarding school, he is always reading. Max has written for sites like Geeks of Doom and SF Signal, where he created the Indie Author Spotlight. Max lives in Connecticut with his wife – who graciously embraces his need to display action figures all over the house – and daughter, who is inheriting her parents’ affinity for books.