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.
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In the stories, noble knights and their retainers hold in the chill of dawn. In the stories, footmen and soldiers form orderly lines, wait for the rising run. War is ordered, just. Clean. A clear winner, in the right every time, the gods’ chosen side.
War is none of those things.
The Obsidian Psalm is a brutal and visceral tale of betrayal and power, set in a world locked in an eternal state of turmoil as history continues to repeat itself. At its black, shadowy heart, it features the hardships endured in the name of survival, utilizing the grisly pain of the past to brave an uncertain future. Snyder weaves his grand tapestry one careful thread at a time, presenting his narrative infused with a series of surreal, dreamlike sequences, each a stepping stone on the path to enlightenment. While the majority of the story is a flood of twists and turns, gut-wrenching truths lie in wait for those looking closely enough, and all comes together in a beautifully savage crescendo of blood and destruction. A highly intelligent and poignant read, The Obsidian Psalm takes its rightful place among the staples of Grimdark Fantasy.
A series of thick chains linked them, bones hanging from the black iron links. Green lichen crawled alongside, a bright counterpoint to the stark ivory that dangled and clanked and chimed in hollow notes in the wind.
Upon the bones of ages past rests the mammoth city of Golgoth, radiating its stench of rot and corruption, a sanctuary to those with no regard for the value of life. The gods have been at war for millennia, leaving the rest to dredge the detritus for a spark of true power. Snyder crafts this world in immersive, atmospheric detail, illustrating the foulness man is capable of in their drive for divinity. City streets decorated with the hanging dead, ivory shards scratching the skies, a people divided by which god they serve, unfortunate souls feeding the wrong and catastrophic necroengines, the aspects of this dark and tragic setting seem boundless. Readers are shown the world, a macabre fresco where each stroke is an addition to the lushness of the tale.
Of the strongest aspects of this story lies its complex, layered characterization, defined by accounts from both the past and present. At the lead stands Rook – brother, soldier, murderer. Often torn between duty and sentiment, he’s a wonderfully realized character with a distinct voice and rich development. As the story progresses, readers become aware of the intricacy of what lies within his heart beneath the strata of pain and torment. There are many players on the chessboard that play pivotal roles in the narrative’s evolution, each masking their own truths. Peeling away the petals to finally expose those truths is a demanding undertaking, but well worth the effort. It’s important to remember nothing is quite as it seems, so be sure to keep an open mind as you make your way along this bleak journey.
In the face of a killing silence, what did one say?
I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t speak of the writing itself. This story is told with beautiful, expressive prose, using a myriad of flowing metaphorical instances to convey vivid poetry. Blood as rubies and roses, shadows as black teeth, memories shattering like glass, Snyder excels at transforming the mundane into the weird and whimsical, breathing life into the pages. The Obsidian Psalm is Grimdark Fantasy done right, capturing the horrors and consequences of war and strife, unafraid to give into the darkness and touch upon the taboo. A dash of horror with splashes of melancholic dystopian cues, this book is elegant and terrifying and shocking in equal measure.
The Obsidian Psalm is a devastating, labyrinthine tale of retribution that snares and envelopes readers in the deepest of shadows. Expect discomfort, disgust, anguish, and hope – prepare yourself for a descent into the follies of mankind. Readers of Snyder’s prior works will see some pretty incredible connections, a network crafting a universe that spans time, place, and genre. If you’re a fan of unrelenting Dark Fantasy, then this is definitely the story for you. I highly recommend.
Note: I received a complementary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Warning: The Obsidian Psalm is not for the squeamish.
Clayton began reading the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Madeline L’Engle, and others, at an early age. It ignited a love of the odd, the darkly funny, and the magical in him that never left. Over the past few years, he’s published several short stories with various magazines, and three novels with small presses. When he’s not telling stories, he works as a systems administrator for a game retailer. In his off time, he games, he cooks, and he attempts to play guitar. He currently lives in North Dakota with his wife, two dogs, and a cat that insists it’s the other way around.