Review : Along the Razor’s Edge by Rob J. Hayes

« Are we all just monsters waiting for the opportunity to show it? »


At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.

Characters :

Eskara Helsene : When the story unfolds, she is a fifteen-year-old girl but let’s go back a bit. Taken away from her family when she was just a child, she spent a few years of her young life being tortured at the Academy. This Academy is a place where Sourcerers learn how to handle a Source which is a round-like object they have to swallow and to vomit. I will get back to the magic system later on.

Send to fight a hopeless war while she was not ready, she is exposed to the horrors of it. The war lost, she is thrown into a place called the Pit where she toils each day. Violence, torture, deaths are her everyday life.

Eska is a very bold and angry character. A bit foolish too because, well, she is fifteen years old. She won’t quit, she won’t break despite everything that is thrown at her. Her will not to show any weaknesses will put her in a fix in a lot of situations. She knows that she is playing with fire with people you could snap her neck in an instant. During her flashbacks, she regrets her lack of immaturity and her being hot-blooded.

Her relationship with Josef is… strange. We know that they trained together at the Academy and that they got along famously with each other. And that’s where Josef’s « betrayals » (according to Eska) began. Off the top of my head, I would say that he betrayed 4 to 5 times.

« I have always found it strange that people equate having testicles with courage. Threatening a man’s balls is often the fastest way to make him cower. »

The well-known expression « an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth » describes her perfectly.

The other characters were also very interesting and varied. Josef has been her friend for a few years and they share a bond which will be put through the mill. He has known war because he lived on the border of the Empire and everyone he knew was killed. He loathes war and if not for Eska, he would have fled. The brothers Hardt and Isen, former pirates, are part of her crew. At the beginning of the book, I loved both of them, however, by the end, I only liked Hardt. Let’s just say that Isen revealed his true nature. Let’s talk about Tamura now. We don’t know a lot of things except that he talks in riddles and is a bit barmy. He knows how to fight and seems to know about Sourcerers and how their powers work. We know as much about Yorin than Tamura. He’s also a good fighter but also calm, patient, systematic. He also comes from the poorest borough of Terrelan’s capital city, Juntorrow.

Story :

Most of the action happens in the Terrelan Empire but during her flashbacks, the story takes place in the Orran Empire.

The only narrator of the story is an older version of Eska. She tells us what happened during her youth (her training at the Academy and the war) and during her time in the Pit. Thank to the little snippets of information about her past, not only do we know more about what she has been through but we also sympathise with her and her desire of vengeance. From time to time, Eska reveals us some hints as to what will happen in her life. And I’m so looking forward to that part !

90% of the story happens in the Pit. And what a place it was ! The place is a little society with its rules and roles. There are scabs, foremen, guards, and one overseer. It was great to see how this little society worked. The purpose of these thousands of scabs is to dig deeper into the Pit. The digging does not seem to have any real purpose, it’s just a place to keep the most violent and dangerous criminals out of the world. Everything is done to keep them weak and in check : they only eat gruel with a piece of stale bread, they work in the dark during most of the day while being hit by the foremen if you do not dig fast enough. Well, only a scowl at the foremen would earn them a lash on their back.

However, you can try to improve your standing and your condition. The scabs have a lot of games during which they put things (good or stale food, ointments, ropes, bandages and so on) at stake. You can also fight in the arena but what is at stake here is your life.

“Killing should never be easy, nor handed out indiscriminately. A person’s life is a one-time thing. No one should take that away without good reason.

I also loved the fact that there was not any info dumping. It was done slowly and in a good way.

The only drawback I had was the repetitions of how she felt. I have lost count of how many times she said that she was angry or that she hated someone.

Note : 4 sur 5.

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