Ahoy there me mateys! I loved the book the heart of stone by this author so I decided to give this trilogy a shot. The protagonist is Caltro Basalt, a selfish man who considers himself the greatest living locksmith. He heads to Araxes to take a commission only to be murdered his first night there. Then he awakens to find himself not only a slave but a ghost. Caltro doesn’t let that stop him from still putting the most important thing first . . . himself.
The world building in this series is excellent. The entire economy and all power in Araxes stems from how many souls i.e. shades ye own. I absolutely loved the set up and details of how this realm worked. I was also very glad not to be living there. Or not living as the case may be.
The premise makes it seem as though Caltro is the only POV. His is the only one written in first person. There are many other character POVs as well. I particularly loved Nilith. She is dragging her husband’s dead body through the desert and is determined to turn him into a shade. Time is running out and so it be a race to the finish. Her luck sucks. Her husband’s shade bickers with her on this whole journey. Excellent.
Caltro and Nilith’s stories are seemingly separate in this trilogy but of course do eventually merge. I had a very hard time deciding which of the two I liked better. Caltro is snarky and plotting. Nilith is just so badass and determined. I also enjoyed the machinations of the Widow and the investigator Heles. The bird, horse, and tracking creature were also great. The slave trader and the princess grated just a little bit.
I was glad to read the three books back to back because of how each one ends. It very much felt like one book split into three installments. The first book was by far me favorite. As the books continued the politics and religious elements increased and the focus widened. This change wasn’t completely to me taste as I enjoyed the closer personal plotlines of the prior books. So while I didn’t particularly love the ending, I am very glad to have read the trilogy. The shade currency itself was certainly worth it. Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the first book in the series:
Welcome to Araxes, where getting murdered is just the start of your problems.
Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.
They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.
While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.
Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.
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