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The Color of Vengeance by Rob J. Hayes

The Color of Vengeance by Rob J. Hayes
Book Name: The Color of Vengeance
Author: Rob J. Hayes
Publisher(s): Ragnarok Publications
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy
Release Date: January 19, 2015

This review contains spoilers for book one, The Hersey Within.

Please read with caution if you have yet to finish the first book.

In the Wilds, you either adapt or you die. Rob J. Hayes seems to have learned that lesson himself, as his second novel in the Ties that Bind series brings quite a few changes to the characters we met in The Heresy Within.

Thanquil Darkheart and Jezzet Vel’urn were two of the most complex characters in The Heresy Within, and in their absence from this chapter of the trilogy, Hayes has added shadings and complexity to the rest of his cast. When The Color of Vengeance begins, the Black Thorn’s changes range from the obvious – the missing eye that Kessick plucked from his skull at the conclusion of the last book – to the more subtle.

The Black Thorn who bounced from one crew to another has been replaced by a man with a strong sense of loyalty that drives much of the plot. Believing that Thanquil and Jezzet died at the end of the last book as a result of his failure, the Black Thorn gradually collects the remaining members of his old crew and seeks vengeance against one who proves to have betrayed them all. As the Black Thorn brings the old gang back together, he finds that each has changed since we last saw them.

Henry, formerly a psychotic murderess who made even the Black Thorn nervous, is now his second-in-command and most trusted confidante. In The Heresy Within, her primary characteristics seemed to be bloodthirstiness (toward everyone) and jealousy (toward Jezzet). Now, she’s seeking revenge against Swift, who we learn beat and raped her in the aftermath of the previous book. Along the way, she takes time out of a fight to grant slaves their freedom, and feels actual guilt when her actions lead to a widespread slave rebellion.

Swift, who previously provided dark comic relief, is now a full-fledged villain, complete with a bodyguard who has been trained his entire life for the sole purpose of protecting his charge (think of the Unsullied from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire). Bones has also survived the massacre of Hostown, and is now reunited with his wife and running a small town.

Some of the changes work better than others. Swift’s betrayal plays very true to the character we’ve known, and fits in a world where it seems half the original gang was plotting against the others. The Black Thorn’s discomfort with his new role as boss plays very naturally, though Henry is surprisingly unaffected by her former lover’s death. In fact, in her point of view scenes I don’t believe the Boss was mentioned at all, making it unclear exactly what those two meant to one another. If Henry bears any emotional scars from seeing her lover and traveling companion’s face eaten off by an enraged demon, she doesn’t deign to mention it, and it seems like a missed opportunity to further humanize the character.

Of course, Hayes isn’t relying solely upon the old gang. Anders, who played a minor role in the first book, is back in an expanded capacity as a member of Black Thorn’s new gang, playing much the same role that Swift played in the last book, though perhaps without Swift’s deadly skill and the same ability to create humorous bickering amongst the crew.

Jacob, a member of the Inquisition whose blessings have been embedded into his body, is a creepy new addition, a super-powered madman who racks up most of the book’s body count. All the while, he listens to music that only he can hear and dreams of the wife he killed years ago, after the Inquisition’s experiments left him endowed with deadly magic but also completely insane.

Hayes took a bit of a risk in this book, removing two popular characters in Thanquil and Jezzet and relying solely upon the Black Thorn and his band of not-so-merry misfits to carry the story. Ultimately, though, the focus on the Black Thorn and his crew worked to create a streamlined, fast-paced story. The Black Thorn was my favorite character from The Heresy Within, so I actually appreciated seeing the focus placed on him as we see how the events from the first book have left him a changed man while maintaining enough of his old ways to throw him right back into the fire.

I can’t say it’s a perfect novel, as the return of so many original characters at times felt too easy, and Hayes may have retooled some of his characters just a touch more than I would have preferred, but if you liked The Heresy Within, there’s a better than average chance you’ll like The Color of Vengeance as well. Even as the characters have changed, the action and bloodletting have stayed the same, and Hayes maintains his remarkable ability to craft despicable yet fascinating personalities. It will be interesting to see where the story goes once Thanquil and Jezzet return to the action in The Price of Faith.


One Comment

  1. Avatar C.T. Phipps says:

    I think this is the best of the Ties that Bind series, really. The character of the Blackthorn really shines here.

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