Review | The Obsidian Psalm – C.W. Snyder

About the Book

Betrayed by those he trusted. Resurrected by a man he should loathe. A head full of memories he didn’t make. Rook is forced into a bargain that might kill him if he refuses, and if he accepts, could mean the end of existence. Trapped in a shadow war between necromancers, his choices are dwindling to one: Cut a bloody swathe of revenge across humanity’s last remaining city.

300 pages
Published January, 2020
Author’s webpage
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I like a book that makes me wonder what the hell the author is thinking of when he/she wrote the thing. Like, take me on a trip. One massive, surreal, really weird trip. Just take me somewhere I’ve never been before, and make me experience the world in a way I’ve never experienced it. Then, if you’ve got that far, hit me really hard with some stunning, absolutely evocative prose and you’re golden. 

I’m not afraid of weird. Actually, I tend to seek it out. Weird is my go-to. I am really, really tired of the same-old-same-old. Epic fantasy, everyone has a sword, the unsuspecting person who ends up in the middle of it all, kingdoms warring. All of that is fine, but it’s safe. It’s comfortable, and I’ve read it a million times. 

So if you really want to grab me these days, you’ve got to be unafraid to see the “tried and true” heavily trod path, and say, “that’s cool but I’d rather go wander away into the weeds a bit.”

Enter, C.W. Snyder. 

First of all, this book is not perfect, but what book is? 

Secondly, Snyder is fantastic. He’s just weird enough, just daring enough, and so intensely dark. Like, take grimdark fantasy and maybe make it even darker and you’ve got Snyder. Then, marrying that darkness with some fantastic prose just puts it over the top for me. 

The world itself is… unique… and Snyder doesn’t shy away from showing how horrible it can be. In a place where people have to carve their lives out of a landscape locked in a perpetual war, you kind of have to understand that very few things will be pretty, and even fewer will be fun. This is not a book you go to if you want pretty and fun. This is a book you’ll want to read if you want to work for the story. If you aren’t afraid of being uncomfortable.

That’s not saying that the book is a slow burn or anything of the sort. The plot moves quickly, sometimes a bit too quickly, as I wished he could have lingered on a few scenes a bit longer. I do think that by lingering, some things that may have flown a bit over my head would have made more of a solid impact as I progressed through the book, maybe been a bit less whirlwind confusing at points.

However. 

The book does move forward relentlessly. There’s never a dull moment, and what I perhaps love the most is the unique world building, mixed with just stunning prose and an atmosphere that seemed to transcend the page. This book was a lyrical masterpiece. A marriage of beauty and dark that just worked for me on nearly ever conceivable level. 

The Obsidian Psalm is the first book of Snyder’s that I’ve read, but I can assure you it won’t be the last. He has a certain style I just like. His cynicism, and the layers of his thought are what really got me. We have the surface story, but under all of that is a complex exploration of deeper ideas of self, loyalty, and choice. Take a man and break him. See what happens.

Be still, my heart.

Rook is a character you’ll either love, or you’ll love to hate. He’s abrasive and dark, wounded, emotionally damaged, and determined, despite the insurmountable obstacles facing him. He has a very distinct voice, and it will unapologetically pull you through the novel, until you reach the very um… memorable end. He does not shy away from violence, and he does not shield the reader from it, either. I never did feel like things wandered into “needless violence” though. The world sucks. The situation sucks. I think it would be out of character for Rook to be anything but exactly what he is in this book. 

So, what do you have here? 

An underrated grimdark masterwork, with stunning prose, an unforgiving plot, and ultimately, a story that will burrow its way under your skin and make a home there. 

It will make you uncomfortable. All the best books do.

If you aren’t afraid of darkness, you are really doing yourself an injustice if you haven’t read The Obsidian Psalm.

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