The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2) by Richard Swan
Publication Date: February 14th, 2023
Hardcover. 560 pages.
About The Tyranny of Faith:
"A Justice’s work is never done.
The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumous that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.
Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped - and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined."
The Tyranny of Faith is an absorbing sequel in a distinct and compulsive fantasy trilogy that is quickly becoming a favorite. This book was exactly what I needed to read at the time I read it, and I was entirely riveted the entire time. There is a extensive recap for the first book provided on Richard Swan's website (and I genuinely cannot thank him enough) and it was exactly what I needed to refresh my memory on important events and details from the first book.
The Tyranny of Faith picks up pretty much right after the events of The Justice of Kings. The crew–Sir Konrad Vonvalt, Helena, Bressinger, and Sir Radomir–are on their way back to the capital city of Sova after the Battle of Galen's Vale, where they find that things are rather tenuous in the city and it is not the same at it was when Sir Konrad left it several years ago. Things only continue to heat up as Sir Konrad returns and resumes his position, only for him to be met with some rather shocking surprises and new duties.
I loved reentering this world. Helena is the perfect narrator for this story, and her voice captures the atmosphere of this series perfectly. She remains just as sharp, witty, astute, and unfailingly real in her display of emotions and reactions to the many different situations she finds herself in, including some incredibly intense events that would surely shake anyone's foundation. Helena's journey from the first book through this sequel has been transfixing, and I've thoroughly enjoyed watching her transformation even over this course of time. She has gone from general protégé of Vonvalt to having to deal with things that are far more complex, difficult, and leagues darker than most justices even have to deal with. She goes through many ups and downs while trying to figure everything out, and I've liked following her along on this tumultuous journey immensely.
Vonvalt has a very rough time in this book and it was interesting to see him in different lights and circumstances, especially while watching him deal with things that could potentially take his life. Vonvalt hits some low points I never really expected to see him hit, and I think this really struck home just how serious some fo the things happening in this book were. Watching a strong leader such as Vonvalt struggle to the point that those supporting him have to take on roles they never should have had to made for an intense and riveting storyline that I couldn't look away from.
I was a little disappointed that Bressinger seemed be in such bad spirits and circumstances in this book because I feel like we missed out on seeing some other aspects of his personality that we saw in the first book that I loved, but I wouldn't really complain about this because his actions in this book were much more fitting with what was going on. Bressinger has a lot of struggles in the present, but also has undergone some tough times in the past and still has to deal with these past traumas that are only exacerbated by many things that have happened more recently. His characterization felt incredibly authentic and I think Swan captured him really well in these two books.
The Justice of Kings was already a book with plenty of political intrigue, but the political intrigue stakes and scope have majorly upped the ante in The Tyranny of Faith. There is so much complexity to the politics of this world and all the different factions that exist and are allied or pitted against one another. There's a constant sense of not knowing who you can trust, and because of that nothing ever really feels safe or certain–we can only rely on the gut instincts of our main characters. In particular, I felt as though there was a lot of grey area at play with some of the politics and especially with a set of rather horrific tasks that Vonvalt undertakes in the first half of the book. Some of it even felt a bit difficult or shocking to reading, especially when, as a reader, you aren't sure if he's even doing the "right" thing. Swan captured all this complexity and uncertainty excellently through his thoughtful prose and ability to create a strong atmosphere and convey characters' actions and thoughts throughout.
If you enjoyed any of the magical elements in the first book, such as Vonvalt's use of the Voice, his necromancy, or really anything else, then you will be thrilled to find out that the magic becomes even more developed in this book. We explore much more in relation to necromancy and other 'worlds' associated with said necromancy (think 'dreamwalking' of sorts), and I found myself re-reading different parts with these elements over and over to try to make sure I fully understood it, as it's really a very clever and intricate system that requires many explanations and a simultaneous awareness of unknowns that exist. There's something incredibly unnerving and creepy about much of what happens to Helena and Vonvalt in this book as well, and I loved the near-constant sense of dread and despair that permeated the story.
There's plenty of action, but at the same time it's not an overly action-heavy story, and I appreciated the steadier pace of having our characters go about to different places and do some investigating and discussing. Because of the slower paced nature of The Tyranny of Faith, I really appreciated how thoughtful the story is about themes and ideas and honestly I feel everything that comes up has good thought and nuance put into it. The characterizations are involved, complex, and I feel like all of these characters are truly fleshed out to the point that I can easily I find myself fully invested in all of them. I would also say that this is a rather dark book. Much of the time our characters feel almost nothing but dread and despair–as previously mentioned–and a severe lack of hope, but they do keep trying and have a great determination to figure out everything that's going on, which is something I found incredibly commendable and equally gripping to watch. It's that sort of gritted teeth gusto that keeps you going in times when you feel like you might fall apart if you don't keep going, and I found it very relatable and compelling.
Overall, I've given The Tyranny of Faith 4.75 stars! I will be very eagerly awaiting the final installment to this series because I have a feeling it's going to be amazing and intense.