Review | Sins of the Mother – Rob J. Hayes

About the Book

In her darklight the world will burn.

Eskara Helsene is missing. She left her queendom, her friends, her children, even her own name behind. No one has seen the Corpse Queen for a decade.

Someone is murdering Sourcerers, forcing them to reject their magic and opening scars in reality, and monsters from the Other World are pouring through.

When an old acquaintance turns up out of the blue, Eska has no choice but to investigate the murders and the holes in reality. Can she stop the killer before the entire world is consumed? And will the conflict reveal her true nature?

Published on May 3, 2022
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I edited this book.

This is the fourth book I’ve edited by Rob Hayes, and while I’ve enjoyed all of them, this has to be my favorite so far. Here, we have the same old Eska, but she’s different as well. Time has passed, and Eska is older and wiser. She’s still grumpy, sarcastic, abrasive, but she’s also matured a bit like a finely-aged wine. 

The Eska in Sins of the Mother is not the Eska you’ll remember from previous books. I mean, she is, but she’s not at the same time. Hayes took great care developing his character, and this is really where the book shines. Eska’s characterization is nothing short of perfection. She’s older, and time has tempered a lot of her brashness, but she’s also got this edge of emotional vulnerability throughout the novel that really nailed it for me. Here, you see Eska’s brash actions, but Hayes lifts the curtain a bit, and shows us the vulnerable woman haunted by past decisions and deeds, and how that has impacted her over the years. 

Eska has turned into a bit of mythology in the decade she’s been away, and the struggle between who people think she is and who she actually is fills a lot of her personal arc and thrusts her into no small amount of emotional turmoil. I loved this aspect of Eska, and Hayes knew just how to lean into it, how to make it sing without hitting it too hard. This is just one example of what he does so well. I was blown away by how complex this new, older Eska is. Her voice remains true to who she is, and who she has always been, but there’s… more to her now. And so much of what she experiences, what she thinks and feels, were things I profoundly related to. It was nothing short of breathtaking, how he took a character I already loved so much and somehow pushed her over the top and made her even better. 

I said no few times when editing this book, that Rob Hayes could teach a masterclass on characterization based on Eska in Sins of the Mother, and I stand by that. She was… brilliant. 

More, though, you’ll see some familiar faces. Old friends return, and they are all a bit different as well. Time has passed, and it’s left is mark on everyone. The care Hayes took with developing each of his characters, determining how that time would change them, especially after what has happened in previous books, really shows off his capabilities as an author. There’s a lot of substance here, a lot of things to sink your teeth into. Decisions and actions never happen in a vacuum. In Sins of the Mother, Hayes follows a lot of these changes, both personally and politically, and sees where they end up after everything has had a few years to really settle in and stew. 

Rob Hayes has always excelled at battles, and it’s no different here. He works tension like a song and uses battles to power the crescendo. The result is this wham-bam gut-punch of action and plot that will certainly keep you rooted to your chair. With attention to detail, and Eska’s missing arm, her age, and the like, the battles aren’t always how you’d expect a battle to be written, and that’s part of the beauty here. Throughout, Hayes remains true to his characters, and throughout, you have moments of emotional and physical tension that pull plot threads together in surprising, unforgettable scenes peppered throughout the book. There’s never a dull moment. After releasing numerous books and a myriad of series, Hayes knows what he’s doing, and it’s easy to let him take the wheel and steer. I always trust him to guide me, and it always pays off. 

I cannot even predict what will happen next, but I’m dying to find out. 

Sins of the Mother takes the series in a new, unexpected direction. The ending closes some doors (painfully) and then opens another. It’s impossible to predict what is going to happen next, but I cannot wait to find out. Eska has always been a character who has straddled numerous lines, and that doesn’t stop, even to the bitter end. There’s a lot that Hayes hinted at in previous books in the series which will come into play here. In fact, I was nothing short of shocked by how well Hayes wove together plot threads from previous books, and how things I didn’t think were important ended up being pivotal. That ending is where all the magic happens, and the ingredients all come together to make something truly magical. 

Sins of the Mother packs an unforgettable punch. Hayes works masterfully on numerous different levels, pushing the plot and characters toward a tension-filled ending that truly left me reeling and wanting more. Eska, however, is where the story shines. She’s still Eska, but she’s also more somehow, and I felt that “more” in my soul. I have always loved Eska, but I didn’t truly feel like I profoundly connected with every aspect of her until this specific book. 

There is one more book in this series, and I know I’m going to have a love/hate relationship with it. Eska has taken me places and left a mark. There is no recovering from her, and I’m already dreading the fact that at some point, her story is going to end. But for now…

Sins of the Mother is what happens when an artist has mastered his craft. 

I don’t know where Rob Hayes will take me next, but I know as long as his name is on the cover of a book, I will read it and I will love it. 

It’s impossible not to. 

The guy is that good. 

5/5 stars