Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

I’m going to try to get back into reviewing books. I’ll probably review some big names from time to time, but I’m hoping I can get in more reviews of some of the lesser-known authors out there (both in trade publishing and self-publishing).

In that spirit, I will start with a review of Hope and Red by Jon Skovron. This one immediately caught my attention when I first heard of it because it sounded like something Brent Weeks would write.

You have two main characters. One of them is a young woman who, as a girl, was the only survivor of a sorcerous attack on her village performed by the emperor’s Biomancers. These Biomancers like to experiment on people, and the empire largely turns a blind eye to these experiments, which are quite disturbing.

These Biomancers were one of my favorite things about the book. It’s a type of magic you don’t see as often in fantasy, and it made me feel that I’d be getting more than just a Weeks clone.

The girl, who comes to be called Hope, ends up being sent to an island where an order of warrior monks lives. The leader of these monks trains her even though they are not supposed to train women, and she becomes quite a force.

The other main character is a charming young rogue who goes by the name Red, on account of the red eyes he gained as the survivor of his mother’s drug addiction. In addition to being a thief, he’s also quite the artist. He comes to play a major role in a slum within one of the empire’s largest cities.

As you can probably guess, their stories end up coming together. Along the way, there’s plenty of action, some good bits of humor, and characters that you want to root for despite their flaws.

It’s also another in the growing list of gunpowder fantasy you see these days. It’s nice to see more and more fantasy moving away from its quasi-medieval roots. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of fantasy novels with that setting, but it’s also refreshing to see more varied settings.

I never quite got that feeling I get reading my favorite authors, but this was a very good adult fantasy debut for an author who has written some young adult before. I recently read the second book, and it continues the story quite well, throwing in some interesting new wrinkles.

Rating: 8.5/10

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