Post-apocalyptic taken to the darkest and goriest heights imaginable. A dark fantasy nerds dream. A hellish nightmare in between the covers. At the time of writing, ‘Edge of the Breach’ by Halo Scot has scored a nearly perfect score of five out of five from fourteen seperate reviews. That number jumps to fifteen as I add my own five stars to this novel, a brilliant addition to the dark fantasy genre and one which I would highly recommend everyone who are fans of said genre.
** Spoilers Ahead! **
Dark Gets Even Darker
I’ve been a fan of dark fantasy ever since getting my first taste of it, reading the ‘Night Angel’ trilogy by Brent Weeks. There’s something about the genre that just feels very real, in terms of the roadblocks and personality issues faced by the characters, the protagonist arc which are usually bloody and heartbreaking (just like many of life’s own hurdles), and a villain who not only does not have the moral compunction not to kill you but their actions are motivated by goals that you, as a reader, could understand.
The gorier it is, the darker it gets, the more the novel mirrors the nature of real life, the more I love the novel.
The same could be said for ‘Edge of the Breach’, except that Halo takes the dark premise and scales it up by 100 levels. Both of the protagonists suffer through a combination of unfortunate events, fueled by their own uncontrollable and, sometimes morbid, passions which culminate in them wading through a pool of blood, as they head towards the edge of the breach (see what I did there?). This is the darkest novel, not just in terms of the gore but the way that Zawad society is depicted, the way people live and interact, ambitions, dreams, hopes and fears. It’s a novel that will get you at every turn and leaves you with just enough of a blood trail that you’ll sniff it all the way to the very satisfying conclusion.
Mythical Yet Rooted World
Dark fantasy is two words but it must always be about the ‘fantasy’ aspect first before the ‘dark’ can add just a little more spice to it.
To this end, Halo has done a spectacular job. The post-apocalyptic world, depicted by the sprawling city of Zawad, feels alive, full of dangers, dreams and dastardly plans to undermine everyone in the race to the top. It feels real, and even the introduction of magical powers does not dim this rooted realism. Magic systems, especially deep ones, are a difficult act to carry out but Halo has done a great job explaining the magic system, who can use what types of magics, how this is determine and the power levels of each character in a clear and concise way.
The powers are believable, the world is full of danger and the accompanying dark atmosphere on top of everything just adds a zing of tension and anticipation of the reader at every turn of the page.
Twisted Journey Through The Human Psyche
What I appreciated the most, however, was not the realistic magical world or how dark the novel started to become as you continued to turn the pages, but it was the tragic stories of the two young protagonists, Julian Kyder and Sira Rune. It was a fascinating study to find two people, who couldn’t have been born in more different circumstances and in different environments, to find themselves together and, essentially, being the mirrors to each other’s soul.
Kyder and Rune go through some tough times in this novel, parts of it making me pity and wary of them at the same time. Despite both having it rough, the way that it changes them are starkly different, which is similar to what happens in real life as everyone is different and everyone would respond differently to similar stimuli. For Kyder, the answer was violence whilst, for Rune, the answer was compassion. They were distinctly different and, yet, remained as the half to the other, much like heads and tails on the same spinning coin.
Their psyche warps, changes and solidifies as the novel wears on. The relationship between the two acts as a catalyst for that change, whilst events around them do shape who they are, it is their interactions with each other that really grabbed my attention and it will certainly grab yours as Halo develops their relationship to a believable and satisfying cliff hanger, one which leaves me gasping for air and excited to read the next book in the series.