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The Price of Faith by Rob J. Hayes

The Price of Faith by Rob J. Hayes
Book Name: The Price of Faith
Author: Rob J. Hayes
Publisher(s): Ragnarok Publications
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy
Release Date: May 5, 2015

With The Price of Faith, the third and final book in Rob J. Hayes’ The Ties that Bind series, Hayes once again returns to the central plot established in the first book, but brings a new interest in establishing interesting settings to continue the steady evolution we’ve seen throughout his young writing career.

In The Heresy Within, we’re introduced to a violent, cut-throat world where the nicest thing you can say about any of the characters we meet is that they need exceptional, long-term therapy to heal the myriad emotional and psychological issues that lead to an unrelenting series of gory confrontations.

In The Color of Vengeance, the tone abruptly shifts as most of our characters are made just a touch more gentle and appealing. The Black Thorn’s intense loyalty to his friends is on proud display, even as he struggles with his new role as crew boss. Henry goes from a madwoman whose presence makes everyone nervous (especially Black Thorn, as she once stabbed him during an intimate moment) to becoming the Black Thorn’s closest confidante. Thanquil Darkheart and Jezzet Vel’urn, arguably the two most likeable characters from The Heresy Within, don’t even show up.

The plots also vary wildly. In The Heresy Within, Thanquil discovers a conspiracy within the Inquisition, and finds unlikely partners in his fight against a powerful conspiracy that uses black magic to bring demons into the world. But The Color of Vengeance largely puts this plotline on hold as Black Thorn gets much of his old gang back together and seeks revenge against an old colleague.

Would The Price of Faith tie up the loose ends from the series’ original storyline, or would it go in an entirely new direction? A quarter of the way through the book, I wasn’t certain, even as I was fascinated by Hayes’ world-building.

The story begins in the Dragon Empire, as we catch up with both Thanquil and Jezzet. After an argument regarding Thanquil’s continued allegiance to the Inquisition, they have parted ways, as Thanquil hunts a witch under the protection of one of the empire’s dragon princes and Jezzet finds herself in the capital city, where she has become a close and trusted friend of the empress.

The setting represents a new development in Hayes’ storytelling abilities. Through the first two books, Hayes relied upon fairly standard fantasy settings, as the independent city-states seemed primarily to only vary in size, and virtually all the focus was placed on the characters – a philosophy I was certainly OK with. But the Dragon Empire indicated a larger world outside of what we’ve previously been introduced to, where an empire has been built and fortified around the existence of dragons – each bonded to the empress or one of the dragon princes. Primarily inspired by eastern cultures, the Dragon Empire gave us the opportunity to see Jezzet shock everyone around her by being the exact opposite of the submissive, obedient women they are accustomed to.

The empire also allows us to meet some interesting characters – the empress and her dragon, with their ability to communicate telepathically; Verla Pre’lain, the witch Thanquil is hunting; and the pirate Drake Morass, who we’ve met elsewhere but get to see much more of here. A minor character I’d love to read about, possibly as a key character in an anthology short story, was the Dragon Herald, a renowned soldier committed whole-heartedly to the Dragon Empire. As the empress’s top bodyguard, we only meet him briefly, but he certainly makes an impression.

The new setting lends a fresh energy to the proceedings and helps keep things interesting, and it doesn’t take too long before we start to finally see how this new world ties into the overarching plot from the first book. When you combine this with Hayes’ continued ability to craft dynamic fight scenes and action sequences, it makes for a fun, fast-paced read that brings a lot of strong attributes to the table.

While The Price of Faith marks the final book in The Ties that Bind, Hayes is working on a follow-up series that will include some familiar characters and will likely continue the many loose ends purposefully left dangling at the conclusion of The Price of Faith. In fact, the epilogue serves as something of a cliffhanger, putting the events of the entire trilogy in new perspective and clearly laying the groundwork for future books. It made for an ending that left me excited for what Hayes will bring to publication going forward, but I can certainly see how some readers may not appreciate a trilogy that isn’t finished telling its story.

Ultimately, this was a fascinating series to read due to the development of both the characters and the author. Each book built upon the previous, and Hayes’ improvement throughout the series has me excited to see where he goes with the next one. These aren’t perfect books, and all three books (but especially The Heresy Within) require readers to be comfortable with quite a lot of sex, violence and profanity, but as the series develops it relies less upon shock value and more upon its characters.

Ultimately, it proves a change for the better, as the personalities, world and plot all reach new heights that culminate in The Price of Faith.


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