About the Book
The Drine war machine needs to be constantly fed and has turned its sights on Tienne. Warlord Rextur devoted his life to planning this invasion, so how did he lose the element of surprise? And who is this emerging rival Peter Redfist? He can’t be much of a problem. The god of destruction has long favored Rextur. His faith is strong and his legions mighty. Who could withstand their onslaught?
869 pages (paperback)
Published on October 5, 2019
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This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Okay, before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to tell you that I’m of two minds about reviewing this book at all. I feel the need to pin up a disclaimer, of sorts, before we continue on. You see, Jesse Teller is a friend of mine. We talk almost daily, and I’ve also edited one of his other books (it hasn’t published yet and it’s nonfiction rather than fiction). So understand, I am biased. I am both his friend and his editor and likely both of those things color my opinion, though I try to keep said coloring minimal.
Over some of our conversations, Teller has told me about the vast scope of this series, and it got me interested. I’ve read some of his stuff, but between writing and publicity-ing my own books, and editing books for other people, my reviewing has sort of fallen off a cliff. I just don’t have the time anymore. If I’m on my laptop, there’s about 40,000 other things I need to be doing and reviewing only tends to happen when I make space for it.
In my estimation, Jesse Teller is one of the most criminally underrated authors out there. He’s got a veritable library of books under his belt, and another entire library full of books that have already been written and are waiting to be published. His series all have nuances he’s told me about, that tie them all together. Prolific writer, with a mind that tends to work quite a few levels below surface, his books have a lot for a reader like me to pick through. A lot of details that I might not otherwise see, save for the fact that I know Teller, and I know that those nuances are there for a reason.
What I’m saying in a terrible way is that Teller’s books work on a few levels. First, if you want epic fantasy, you don’t really get more epic than this, both in scope and depth. His stories tend to take the good vs. evil narrative, and turn it on its head a bit. His lands are well-crafted and sprawling. His conflicts are true to the nature of the characters and the place they are set in, and they are just as three-dimensional as the characters, and as layered. No easy answers here. No flash-bang of magic and all the sudden everything is fixed. No. His characters have to work for their endings, and it’s all that effort that is so incredibly captivating.
One of the things I love about Teller’s work is that he trusts his reader to figure out what’s going on. He doesn’t hold your hand. He drops you right into the action and you either sink or swim on your own merits. That storytelling method is very prevalent in Onslaught of Madness. While some readers might consider that a mark against the book, I actually really liked that point of this book. There was no warming up. No long, drawn out beginnings and all this time adjusting to weird words and arcane ideas. No. Teller bypasses all of that basically shoves a story at you and say, “Here it is. Eat.” And you eat it up, because the prose are fantastic, and the characters are riveting, and the supporting world and characters are just as interesting as everything else.
There are a handful of characters in this book. As always, some will appeal to you more than others, though I chalk that up more to personal preference rather than any stylistic thing. You’ve got a twelve-year-old boy, and a swordsman, a noblewoman known as The Porcelain Witch (awesome name, by the way) and a whole host of other characters. They all have their own personalities and drives, their own baggage they are hauling around, and while it’s not always clear how and why the threads interweave and tangle, they stand as well alone as they do together, and sometimes figuring out how all the moving parts click into place is half the fun.
I’m going to digress a little bit here, but one thing people keep saying about my own writing is that it’s very emotional. I tend to really enjoy making the emotional landscape as vivid as the physical one, if not more so, in the books I write. Emotions are a fertile place to play, and while I at first thought maybe writing emotional stories was a mark against me, I’ve long since decided I’m fine with it. The reason is, I love a book that makes me FEEL and I want my readers to feel as strongly as I do while writing the stories they read. I don’t want to just enjoy a story, I want to LIVE in it. In all its raw, complex, beautiful, painful parts.
Make me cry. I love it when authors can make me cry.
Now, back to the book at hand. One thing I loved about this book was how quickly it got under my skin, and how strongly it made me feel. It’s not all hearts and flowers. There’s pain and heartbreak. There’re dark scenes, and violence and blood. Teller doesn’t shy away from the dark or the light, but somehow, he manages to be honest to both and tell the story as its meant to be told, and the hope and painful elements of it as well. The plot moves forward at a relentless pace, and I advise readers to pay attention to details. However, the characters really got to me. They brought this fascinating story to life in my mind, and more than just telling a good yarn, Teller hit me right in the feels with a multifaceted masterwork that really did everything I wanted it to do, and more.
The reason why I wanted to review this book today, is because the second book in this series, Wrath of Madness drops today, and I wanted to point readers in the direction of this book, so they can go read the book that just dropped. I also think that criminally underrated authors who show such marvelous skill and precision with their craft need—no, deserve—to be highlighted, and if I can maybe send one reader in Teller’s direction, then perhaps I have done a service to both Teller, and that reader who is sure to love the books he writes.
And here we are. Onslaught of Madness is the start of a story, though readers will be satisfied with this one installment as well, as it has a nice, rounded ending (though you will want more, I promise). I look forward to see how things progress with Wrath of Madness. The plot is relentless, the characters are complex and pop-off-the-page real, the issues they face are just as real as the world that surrounds them. Teller trusts his readers to find their way, and I loved that. There was no warm up, just BAM here’s the story.
More than that, though, is the fact that it’s Teller’s evocative, tightly woven prose that allowed all of this to work together so flawlessly, and really engage me on a deeper level that so many books never quite manage. I didn’t just enjoy the story, I FELT the story, and that makes all the difference.
Onslaught of Madness was fantastic. I cannot wait to read Wrath of Madness. You all need to read Jesse Teller’s work.
And now this review is so damn long I feel like I might break the internet singing Teller’s praises… So, off I go.