The Last Sacrifice by James A Moore

James A Moore is one of the three, in the Three Guys with Beards Podcast. Christopher Golden and Jonathan Maberry being the other two. Now I've read ONE book of each of these three guys. If I were to rank them, I would say I loved Jonathan Maberry best, Tin Men by Christopher Golden next and the open act of the Seven Forges series is the one I liked the least. Sadly, I didn't get back to finish the Seven Forges.



But then, I happened to come across the premise for The Last Sacrifice. Brogan McTyre, a warrior whose family gets sacrificed to appease the Gods, now decides to take the battle to entirely new level. He defies the Gods and challenges them. And this act has catastrophic consequences on the entire world, the angry Gods raining down hellfire and damnation on everybody. This sounded like one hell of a plot-line. Angry gods, their pets called Undying and some stubborn fool of a warrior, who doesn't know where to draw the line.

But when I actually started reading The Last Sacrifice, the first few chapters were a headlong rush of blood to the head. Brogan and his battle-scarred group of war mercenaries, on their way back home discover that his entire family has been taken away by the 'Grakhul' - messengers of the Gods in the mortal realm - to be sacrificed. Brogan, crazy with grief and anxious to save them, sets out to the very end of the world, to save them, aided by this group of loyal warriors, all of whom have fought and survived together, led by his best friend, a quiet and enigmatic man called Harper who has been the only mortal to have 'interacted' with this group called Grakhul. You would expect this quest to last over at least a hundred pages, in the traditional form of any 'fantasy' book. But the pace of the book takes you by the scruff of your neck and pushes your nose to the grind-wheel as things take flight.

The quest ends in a disaster in just over a few pages but Brogan's act of defiance in having stopped this sacrifice to the Gods ( and hence, the name The Last Sacrifice) angers the Gods and sets out a violent cataclysmic chain reaction that sees cities and empires being destroyed through floods, torrential rains, earthquakes and landslides. Brogan further defies them by kidnapping the entire race of 'Grakhul', pale-skinned northerners who are responsible for the sacrifices - and selling them off in slavery. The Undying or He-Kisshi, servants of these Gods, winged creatures of horror that defy explanations, are set out to retrieve the Grakhul. Bringing into the conflict, Slavers who had bought the 'goods'. And to make things complex, two of the intended 'sacrifices' escape from the Undying, grievously wounding one of the He-Kisshi that sets off a track for a personal vendetta.

All in all, it's certainly a combustible explosive mix of things that go around here, in this bleak, grim but gloriously realized world (Think of the Highlands of Scotland being ruled by dark violent whimsical Gods!) that James has created for the Tides of War. The pacing is just relentless Well, with a wide array of characters and the whole bloody world heading off the cliff you wouldn't expect less. While not preachy or heavy-handed, James touches upon thought-provoking stuff throughout this violent and darkly fantastic sword-and-sorcery drama - Like good men forced to do evil stuff in a world that's coming to an end. There are side-stories here that may well spin off another heavy tome of dark fantasy but James keeps it reined in, focusing on, chiefly - yes Brogan and his quest to kill Gods that took away his family but also on the other sub-plots that round off the apocalypse coming to a head.

If I had to pick some faults, then it would have to be with the wide array of characters, While we focus on Brogan's struggle, there are countless other plot-lines that seemed to distract. And not all of them tying in with the major story-arc. There are character names that seem too similar to each other and leading to fair amounts of confusion. The POV's switch around randomly and we don't get to spend enough time with each, except perhaps Brogan. Like for example, I would have loved to get inside Harper's head, a man given to smiles and a supernatural sense of calm in the middle of chaos. The slavers' angle really didn't gel so with me but comes with a gut-wrenching twist by the end that sets up for some amazing things in the series to come. And so with Myridia and the Grakhuls, making their way to the prophesied destination. But this is a tale where there are no 'heroes'. They are all 'humans', flawed to a fault and with well realized motives for all their actions. Even so, with the Undying!

To sum up, James throws in elements of horror, dark fantasy, low magic and some amazing world-building into this boiling mix that somehow seems to work. Spinning off the staid old genre story-lines into a new direction with this epic take on God versus Man, The Last Sacrifice is a solid start to the sordid grim-dark tale documenting the end of a bleak violent world. The lines between heroes and villains blur as Gods seek to end the world.

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