Reading “Beyond the Amarathine Veil” often had me believing I was reading a fan fiction of The Witcher video game series—which isn’t a bad thing, I love those games—mixed in with some classic sword & sorcery and Dungeons and Dragons. Our main character, Tristan, is a former Templar, once bound to protect a brilliant sorceress. Now, he’s a monster/bounty hunter sporting two swords—silver for monsters and steel for people—and keeps company with a charming bard, smart tongued rogue, and a gruff knight. Seriously, it has all the makings of some of my favorite types of games. Tristan, who commands a small amount of magic himself, has now been tasked to bring peace to his kingdom by marrying a noblewoman from its rival kingdom. An uncertain arranged marriage soon blossoms into more as Tristan does his best to keep his bride-to-be safe, and ensure peace between their nations. With stakes that high, you just know it’s a recipe for disaster. Which I normally love! But this wasn’t as fast paced as I generally like for these kinds of stories.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of action in this book. Tristan goes on several “side quests” with his crew to go monster hunting, and their encounters with other sorcerers is often dizzying. Where the book is slow, and why it was hard for me to get through in a timely fashion, was the central plot. Really, the main goal of the characters’ is to survive to the wedding and dodge the various assassins and other obstacles thrown at them. Which, you know, is fine, except the pacing was off between those side quests and the central plot. The book spends a lot of time on things that I think are going to be much bigger issues—like void stones and forcing the Blessing on others to make more magical types—that never truly materializes in this book, and why the various kingdoms are at odds is never really made clear? Other than there’s this prejudice against magical people and creatures, kind of. We see a lot of Tristan and his betrothed getting to know one another and care for one another, we see some character development between the side characters, and learn that Tristan has a soft spot for adopting all the orphans, and also monster hunting, which Tristan is very, very good at. But while we spend a lot of time on those points, when the book focuses back in on the main story, it kind of hand waves what’s happening on that front, and why, and who’s involved, AND WHY, away. Come the end of the book, there’s this huge twist and suddenly Tristan is on the run and I couldn’t really figure out what the heck just happened, or why anyone would think Tristan was responsible. Then, the story ends there and I’m assuming there’s meant to be a sequel at some point, but this wasn’t the kind of cliffhanger I personally enjoy. Too much felt like it was introduced late, and then left unanswered, to where I mainly just felt a bit… confused? Yes, confused.
Let me be clear, there’s a lot going for this book, and the world Bullen builds as a whole. His world is complex with multiple factions and belief systems. Tristan and his family are well crafted and their rich backstories come across well in their actions making the characters all feel distinct from one another. Bullen truly shines when he throws Tristan into combat of some kind making those action scenes some of my favorites in the book. I enjoyed the Witcher-like lore that came into play with the monsters and how Tristan has to handle them; Bullen clearly put a lot of time and effort into building the world and landscape the characters inhabit! I think if you’re a fan of those kinds of games and books that feel like your reading a D&D story then you’re truly going to love “Beyond the Amarathine Veil”.
At the end of the day, while the synopsis sounds gripping and, on paper, this is 100% the kind of book I love, it just didn’t completely grab me the way I was expecting. If the central plot’s pacing had read more like Tristan’s battles and I walked away feeling like I understood the motivations of the villains so the cliffhanger didn’t leave me with so many questions and leave me feeling like I’m missing something huge—I’m not, I went back and checked—then this book would have been perfect, but this wasn’t what I was expecting, which is fine! Like I said, if you love this kind of epic fantasy, then give this book a try, but for me, this is a pretty solid 3 stars. But thanks to the author for sending me a copy for an honest review!
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