The nineteenth book I’m reviewing is Secret of the Seven, the first novel in the series ‘The Rise of Nazil’ by Aaron-Michael Hall. The novel is for the most part high/epic fantasy, with strong overtones of dark fantasy. On that point, I should give a trigger warning on this review. The book contains a significant amount of rape and sexual violence, and I will speak on that content in this review. Readers who have had traumatic experiences or who are sensitive to those topics may wish to abstain from reading.
In this novel, humans are subject to rule by a race of people called Nazilians, whose capital is the city of Nazil. Nazilian society has ideology close to real-world fascism. They worship of gods embodying War, Power, Courage, and Judgment, and they obsess over racial purity. To them humans are inferior and anyone of mixed human and Nazilian blood is considered an abomination. Many Nazilians are sadistic and use terror as a way to maintain their power. Far from Nazil is the secret city of Bandari, where humans and Nazilians live in peace and harmony. One of the books central characters is Pentanimir, a Nazilian of the rank First Chosen (something like an elite military champion) who falls in love with a human woman, Brahanu. The two characters’ love is one of many pieces in the shifting dynamics of this land, which is moving toward a tipping point past which the cruel reign of Nazil cannot survive. Other pieces include the plotting of the giant Dessalonians who live on the edges of the map, and the awakening of god-like beings called Guardians (the titular Seven) who have their own plans for this world.
Apart from the occasional prophecy, there isn’t much of what we’d call magic in the story until near the end. The world is more closely related to the grit and cruelty that our own societies had during the Middle Ages. The story is strong and engaging, although it has some flaws. It moves along fairly slowly for the first two-thirds or so, setting up the pieces that bring it all to a grand climax in the last third of the book. Much of the time spent setting things up in the first two-thirds was spent on developing the romances between various characters. I’m not opposed to romance stories per se, but in this story they did slow things down quite a lot and I thought much of that aspect could have been shortened. One other aspect that I thought could have been shortened, that of sexual violence, calls for its own paragraph.
Now, I’ve read all five books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (and I am waiting, respectfully and patiently, for The Winds of Winter). That series has gotten criticism for the amount of sexual violence in it. Secret of the Seven has more sexual violence in its 500-odd pages than A Song of Ice and Fire has in its 5,000-odd pages. It’s not left to implication and it’s not left to the imagination. It’s there, on the page, described in graphic and gruesome detail. Slaves of the Nazilians are descriptively raped, repeatedly. Captured enemies are treated to imaginative and meticulously-recounted tortures of sexual nature for dozens and dozens of pages. Every time you think the last of these scenes has passed, another one surprises you. Despite the book’s other strengths, I found this to be in poor taste. There were times when I strongly considered putting the book aside due to these scenes, but I kept on because I was invested in the characters. So, readers who cannot stomach those kinds of scenes would do well to stay away from this book.
The prose was good for the most part, though there were typos and a handful of parts that could have used a little more editing. However as I said before, the story was good, a strong addition to the fantasy genre. I know there are two others in the series right now, Seed of Scorn and Piercing the Darkness. I will most likely read the former in a few weeks, and if it’s good I’ll go on to the latter. Fans of epic fantasy who are not too put off by gruesome graphicness will probably enjoy this book.
Now as always, my bit of promo. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1–New Book Review 2–New Book Review 3–New Book Review 4–New Book Review 5–New Book Review 6–New Book Review 7– New Book Review 8–New Book Review 9 –New Book Review 10–New Book Review 11–New Book Review 12–New Book Review 13–New Book Review 14–New Book Review 15–New Book Review 16–New Book Review 17—New Book Review 18.