Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan has an interesting story. It was originally published in Australia through Createspace, won the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel (an award also won in the past by excellent authors like Juliet Marillier, Garth Nix, and Sara Douglass) and was finally picked up by Harper Voyager for publication in 2015. Tale is that book two is with Harper Voyager and prepping for release on February 2nd, 2016. Further tale is that book three is also in Harper Voyager’s hands. We have our fingers crossed that we get a copy of Blood of Innocents (Book 2 of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence) before February.
In a lot of ways, Crucible of Souls is a traditional Bildungsroman. Caldan’s parents are murdered when he was a baby, (a pattern carrying forward from even earlier in his ancestry), and he was taken in by monks and taught the ways of sorcery. The monastery is very much his home and he has found a niche in it. However, as he gets older, it becomes apparent that there is no place for a young man with no family connections to trickle money into the monastery, and he is told that he will need to leave. When he is involved in a tragedy, Caldan is forced to leave earlier than he expected and quickly finds himself a little mouse in the big city. But he is not an entirely defenseless mouse. He just needs some training.
Caldan develops his understanding of the world as he works on survival, and eventually, an apprenticeship. He finds that, in addition to his decent and improving swordsmanship, Dominion play, and crafting abilities, he has a knack for making connections between ideas. There is also another ability happening in the background, however, that makes him much more capable and important than even he knows.
One aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the crafting. I liked how the system of magic involved in crafting magic-infused objects is developed and how Caldan learns from his mistakes and continues to make better craftings. He is good at crafting with paper, which is not particularly typical, and can make all kinds of nifty things using it. He also figures out some neat tricks for making mobile, longer-lasting automatons that engage in some important scenes.
We follow several other characters (all POV is limited third-person): Aidan, a special type of soldier who is finding himself in increasingly morally questionable situations; Vasile, a judge who can automatically detect if a person is lying, and who follows this skill into trouble; and Amerdan, a sinister, gifted serial-killer who might be linked to Caldan in some way (and is involved in a small but memorable scene involving pigs).
Behind all of this, there is a rising threat to the kingdom. We get bits and pieces of information until toward the end, when all hell breaks loose.
There are some minor pacing issues in this book, but certainly fewer than most other authors’ first large-scale fantasy epics I’ve read in the past. The author does an excellent job of giving us only so much information, and generally only when we need it; I am okay with the fact that we don’t know exactly how or why Caldan is who he is by the end of book one. We’ll get there.
Crucible of Souls was released on September 22, 2015 by Harper Voyager. Buy it at Amazon
(or wherever you like to buy books).