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The Blighted City (The Fractured Tapestry #1) by Scott Kaelen Book Review

Write on: Tue, 17 Jul 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 2684


BLIGHTED CITY is a fantasy which involves a juxtaposition of two things which you normally don't see much of: a biohazard horror setting and a fantasy world. Basically, it's a series which could best be described as THE LAST OF US, THE SHADOWS OF INNSMOUTH, meets your typical DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS dragon crawl. Even then, it's not a very good description and you could draw parallels to many other works.

The premise is a group of mercenaries (called "Freeblades") are hired by a woman to retrieve a family heirloom from the titular Blighted City. It is a taboo place which no one visits and have not done so for centuries. Long ago, a monarch offended the gods and the city was sealed off from the rest of the world. It is considered cursed and there's rumors that the dead walk inside it while the locals around it are incredibly untrustworthy.

I fully expected the story to be focused on exploring the Blighted City. I've visited many accursed cities in my fantasy life from Myth Drannor to the former capital of Darkon. Much to my surprise, the book barely spends any time in the cursed city proper. Instead, the majority of the book is a meditation on the results of a "curse" which many people would take as a blessing. What is it like to know you will never die as long as you never leave a specific area? To never get any older whether you're a toddler or a crone? What does one do when you have all the time in the world but can never do anything with it?

I liked the sense of decay which hung around the communities nearby the city. There's a sense of hopelessnes and age that clings to everything without ever fully giving to despair. Our protagonists are strangers in a familiar land but unlike most typical horror movies, we actually get the perspective of the locals. They've lived comfortably for a long time in their current state and they hate the potential threat the Freeblades present. However, these are not crazy cultists and they're averse to anything too extreme to get rid of them.

The characters are nicely broad but suitably deep with a central conflict between the three main ones based on religion: one being an atheist, one being deeply religious, and the other caught between them. The Blight and it's possible relationship to the gods as well as existential questions about life, death, purpose, and existentialism means it gives plenty of fodder for their long-running dispute.

This isn't a hack and slash novel with many action scenes. While they exist and are competently written, this is really a novel much more about big ideas. There's great moments like the fight between an immortal swordsman vs. a very mortal but utterly ruthless one. However, the best moments are quieter ones like trying to figure out whether to take up a long but pointless life versus a short but merry one.

Ultimately, this may be the first volume of a series but it feels like a complete novel by itself. The characters go through an arc and end their storyline in a fairly definitive way. I wouldn't be adverse to reading more by the author set in the universe but this is a story which stands on its own. I felt it was very much a "thinking" fantasy novel which deals with questions of a man's purpose in the world as well as the "point" of death.

Available here

Last modified on Sunday, 18 July 2021 20:58
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.