Vultures by Luke Tarzian

by Justine Bergman

My Rating: 5

SERIES: The Shadow Twins Trilogy
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2019 (Self-published)
PAGES: 333
GENRE: Dark fantasy




In Ariath, this is more than a simple adage. For Theailys An, they are words to live by, especially in the city of Helveden, where he and his demon brethren, the dissident, are looked upon with scorn. Viewed as cohorts of the dead progenitor of Ariathan suffering, they are outcasts. 

Still, Theailys has a job to do: destroy the Heart of Mirkúr and end the war for good. Though Te Mirkvahíl is dead, its progeny leak endlessly from the Heart, sowing death with their passage. With The Keepers’ Wrath, a power focus of his own design, Theailys believes there is hope to restore peace to Ariath once again.

But ending a war is easier said than done, especially for a man haunted by past tragedies and occasionally possessed by a murderous presence keen to take his body for its own. As Theailys works to forge The Keepers’ Wrath, amid a creeping shadow over Helveden, one thing becomes increasingly and horrifyingly clear:

These events have played out many times before.


ALSO REVIEWED AT: Fantasy Book Critic, Goodreads

The light is darkest just before the dawn.

In a world marred and preyed upon by demons, Theailys An has one goal, to reforge The Keepers’ Wrath in order to end the demons’ dominion over those struggling for survival. With divine intervention at every turn, an everlasting conflict between the wielders of illum and mirkúr, and a history that seems to repeat itself, Thaeilys must secure what’s needed to bring peace to a land that has been plagued by a war of shadows for millennia. But are his efforts propelling him towards a predetermined conclusion, or will he take heed to the prophecies bestowed upon him as he dreams?

Vultures is a tale of balance and the war between light and shadow, law and chaos, good and evil. These opposing forces the two sides of one coin, and the balance the minuscule edge on which everything teeters. A careful exploration into the human psyche through the concept of innate fractured personalities wanting and in need of differing final results, all battling for sovereignty. It is a tale of righting wrongs and altering the effects of histories past, and the painful sacrifices needed in order to do so. It is, hands down, one of the most ambitious and sophisticated stories I have ever read. After reading the preview chapter offered by the author, I went into this with high expectations, and I cannot express how elated I am that the remainder of the book completely exceeded everything I had hoped for. If this outstanding debut is anything to judge by, Luke Tarzian is one author everyone needs to keep an eye on.

The format of this book is quite unique in which we’re transported to various interesting locations through a series of timelines, allowing us to witness crucial points in history while remaining in the present. As some books are immediately heavy on worldbuilding, Vultures creates its world, rich in culture and diversity, right before your eyes. Yes, ancient events are implied through their results, such as the mention of a dead city of rot, but we also get to see firsthand how this city has come to be a desiccated shell of shadow and ash. The use of dreams and dream-like states as vehicles for worldbuilding is brilliant, constructing the masterpiece around you, rather than dropping you in blindfolded or overwhelming you with copious amounts of details. At times it may seem the purpose of these mechanisms are unclear, but as the story continues, all threads converge to build a magnificent tapestry with perfect clarity.

The bold may wisely cage a wolf that wields the power to raise an army, Behtréal thought, but it is the arrogant, the ignorant who reach between the bars to slay the wolf’s cubs.

Tarzian has created a cast of intricately complex characters, each possessing of different abilities, hailing from disparate regions around the world, and each with their own strengths and downfalls. Some are controlled by avatars of wrathful gods, others are phreznic, or consumed by multiple presences that attempt to take control of the physical body, others yet are are simply haunted by the past. While the book focuses on three main characters, namely Theailys, Serece, and Behtréal, we’re also introduced to different aspects or personalties of these characters, allowing us to observe critical events as they occur from every angle. There are a variety of secondary characters that perfectly flesh out the story and add a bit of levity, but as diverse as they all are, they all have one thing in common: pain – pain from loss, pain from war, pain from past decisions made, pain of loneliness – bringing them together to rise up for a common cause.

There are so many facets of this book I want to shout praise for and I only wish I could discuss them in more detail, but this story contains one jaw-dropping revelation after another. So, out of fear of spoiling, I’ll just say Vultures is beautifully written, amazingly plotted (this is a severe understatement), and so emotionally raw. Tarzian’s prose is gorgeous and flowing and reminiscent of an epic saga; his words a meticulously honed knife searing into your heart, preventing you from putting the book down, lest you fear leaving the characters you’ve become acquainted with alone in the darkness. His world is strange and awe-inspiring, one that he allows you to catch glimpses of, leaving you wanting more. And finally, peeling away the layers to learn more about the grand scheme is one highly rewarding experience.

The Demon Prime is a force of nature, a wind that begins as a whisper and evolves into a storm of madness that you cannot comprehend.

I feel that anything I say will not give this story the justice it deserves, as it’s one you need to personally experience. It’s earnest, tackling some pretty personal and serious themes, such as loss and depression, never skirting around the severity of their terrible effects. However, we’re always reminded that there is the light of dawn on the horizon. I’ve mentioned this in the past, and I’ll continue to express how excited I always am to dive into the works of a new author, and this is definitely no exception. Vultures is simply one of the most stunning debuts I’ve ever read and a beautiful beginning to The Shadow Twins Trilogy. I highly recommend you give this one a try.

Note: A HUGE thanks to the author who provided me with an advanced copy of this book. 

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1 comment

Dark Ends: An Interview with Luke Tarzian | Whispers & Wonder August 5, 2019 - 10:12 am

[…] sure to check out my review of Luke’s incredibly ambitious and stunning debut Vultures, the first novel in his Shadow Twins series, and current SPFBO […]

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