The Shattered Sylph
I really enjoyed The Battle Sylph and as I read that book, there was one secondary character who rather haunted me. When I saw that The Shattered Sylph would be his book, I pounced on it. Though you’ll need to read the first book in this series to understand what goes on in this one, both are well worth your time. In addition, if you haven’t read The Battle Sylph, this review is full of spoilers for that book, so be warned!
Battle sylph Ril, our hero, is Tortured with a capital T after spending years bound unwillingly to his master Leon Petrule. Ultimately a decent man, Leon’s ignorance and arrogance at the time of the binding blinded him to how this slavery ate at Ril. The two came to respect and even care for one another, though it took much for either master or sylph to admit it. However, Ril’s great love has always been Leon’s daughter Lizzy. Ril’s love for Lizzy from the moment of her birth could easily be a creepy premise, but the author handles it well. During flashbacks to Lizzy’s childhood in both books, Ril appears more protective and like an older brother to Lizzy than sexually attracted.
This book takes place six years after the preceding book. Lizzy is now an adult and Ril loves her dearly. However, the injuries he sustained years before in the action covered in The Battle Sylph weakened him severely and he believes himself unworthy of Lizzy. Even so, when Lizzy is kidnapped by slavers and taken to the distant land of Meridal, Ril joins her father on the quest to rescue her.
Lizzy’s ordeals in Meridal are harrowing, and Ril himself goes through all manner of tortures there as well. It can be tough reading. Rather like the ancient Romans, the people of Meridal love their gladiatorial bouts and the battle sylphs enslaved by the Emperor provide sport for them. And to slake the battle sylphs’ thirst for women, they have a harem of women available to them – a harem to which Lizzy is sold.
Ril’s quest to find Lizzy and to rescue her from slavery makes for action-packed reading. There is also tender romance to be found amidst all the horrors. The novel has plenty of detail about Meridal and its society, but also has more of a romantic focus than the first. You get to see how Lizzy’s love for Ril heals him and, while I would have liked to see more scenes between the two of them, the romance was strong enough to convince me of their happy ending.
At times, I almost felt like Ril and Lizzy had to face a few trials too many and some of the sylph humor was a little on the silly side for me. Still, I greatly enjoyed what I read and at times lost myself completely in this unique world the author has created. I enjoy fantasy and I enjoy romance (obviously), and this book marries the two well.
In addition to containing a page-turning fantasy story, both books in the series play with ideas involving gender and power in ways that intrigue me. The battle sylphs are as alpha a hero as anyone could wish. These guys can blast apart a room with a burst of energy and they’re strong enough to provide near-complete protection for the women they cherish. However, in binding themselves to their heroines, the battle sylphs must willingly give these women a certain amount of power. The woman to whom a sylph is bound has the capacity to order the sylph to do things – and this is something that the female characters recognize and must consciously think about in terms of not abusing someone they love. The rules of this world set up a very interesting power balance between the genders and, while some of the world’s rules may seem overly convenient, I did find myself thinking a lot about how relationships developed within this construct, how they could be twisted, and about how power was allocated.
If you enjoy fantasy romance and strong world-building, The Shattered Sylph should definitely go on your list. You’ll need to read The Battle Sylph first, but since both are fantastic books, that’s hardly a sacrifice.