Gorgeous, vivid, enchanting; and dark.
A troubled woman rises to power to avenge her family in this impressive fantasy by Balstrup. The Seven Lands of Velspar, ruled by an elite class called the Skalens, have always put their faith in the Intercessors, the mystics of the highest order responsible for purification of the spirit. But with the Intercessors gradually gaining in power, the Skalens begin to feel threatened. When an unsettling event initiated by the Intercessors brings a great tragedy in the fierce Sybilla Ladain’s life, she knows she must gather her strength and fight the priesthood. This absorbing fantasy builds tension and suspense by alternating among the perspectives of several characters, with Sybilla at the center. Told in present tense with the hypnotic cadence of fairy tales, the carefully impersonal third-person narrative in alternating voices keeps readers invested. Establishing from the beginning that something tragic happened in Sybilla’s life elevates the overarching plot from a straightforward revenge tale into a complex intrigue about motivation and belief. Balstrup treats Sybilla’s troubled journey sincerely and sensitively. Though the fantastical elements remain vague, Balstrup ably conjures a magical world of rituals and traditions immersed in magic and her characters, among them the righteous but draconian Skalens, the ruler class, and the psychic priesthood, are skillfully sketched. There are many conflicts that shape the story but the most significant one is religion, with the relentless power game between the Skalens and the rebels at play. Foreshadowing sets up the heart-wrenching episodes later in the narrative along with the satisfying ending. Heartbreaking and yet heartening, this is a lush fantasy rooted in personal belief versus religion.
The Way of Unity
Sarah K. Balstrup
Burning Mirror Press
Pub date February 6, 2023
Price $3.20 (USD) Kindle edition