Damned Children of Naor by Justine Plichra-Jendzio promises brutal fantasy with it's cover. And it delivers. These three tales take place in a dark world of demons and damned souls and just all-around evil. Damned Children of Naor consists of three separate stories that are all set in the same world. They're listed as chapters as this book is part of a bigger series, but they're written to be standalone stories.
The first story, Time of Storms, tells of the beautiful daughter of a merchant being sold to the powerful Prince Tarragon. Chapter two sets its stage in the wilderness as a group of hunters find themselfs the victims of what at appears to be a bear possessed by an evil soul-eating entity. And the final chapter, Spark of Truth, is about a mercenary who ends up in a village where she encounters a situation involving a child accused of demon possession and decides to investigate.
All three stories succeed at engaging the reader. The author draws you in to this dark world of evil with lean and effective prose. It's nice to read a fantasy novel that isn't drawn out to 800 pages of over description. The stories are all the perfect length, not too long or too short. While the writing manages to stay elegant and poetic throughout, it doesn't fail to hit you where it hurts when necessary.
The main characters of Damned Children of Naor are all well-drawn, compelling characters; perfect vessels to draw the reader into this dark fantasy world. Because to me the real draw of this novel is the world. Not only the physical setting that clearly draws from different cultures and historical periods, but the social politics and beliefs of the people who populate it. The people of this world all feel real but are clearly of a different time, or more accurately a different place, demonstrated by their outrageous politics and beliefs. But you can't really blame them all too much as you discover more about the world in which they reside. They have some very dark, evil entities to deal with.
All three stories are solid pieces of storytelling, but my favorite was Chapter Three: Spark of Truth. I liked its mystery of a fire demon supposedly ravaging this small village; the investigative structure of the story is pulled off very well. The protagonist, Sainal, is a very compelling main character and definitely not someone I was expecting to see.
Damned Children of Naor is a very thrilling novel. It's not like the fantasy I normally encounter. It cuts to the chase quicker than GRR Martin would ever dare, and shocks you in ways Robert Jordan couldn't dream of. Justyna Plichta-Jenzio has crafted a book that deserves to be read by all fans of fantasy literature. Damned Children of Naor fills a space on the bookshelf that has been empty for far too long.