WARNING: do not attempt this novel unless your schedule for the day is clear.
I could not put down Wraith Knight by C.T. Phipps. I tried. I had lots of things to do. Alas, my plans for the day were crushed because this book is addictive.
Wraith Knight chronicles the events that transpire when Jacob, former legendary hero, finds himself shriven of life and wakes up not just dead, but a Wraith Knight, one of the four Dark Lords of the King Below. He soon discovers that the King Below is dead, and he has spent the last two centuries in the service of evil. Jacob is understandably not happy about this circumstance. After abortive attempts to end his (un)existence, Jacob finds himself saddled with the duty to bring the Nine Heroes to ruin and become the next King Below.
In short order, Jacob hooks up with female companions Regina, a warrior-elf, and Serah, a powerful dark sorceress who, over the course of their adventures, develop a deep affection for each other and even Jacob — kind of like a holy trinity of darkness.
There are many themes explored in this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a complex grimdark tale that takes the usual fantasy tropes and turns them on their head. Jacob’s character is sarcastic and hilarious – everything you’d want in a reluctant Dark Lord. His two female companions are both fierce, independent heroines who manage to embrace their own strengths without diminishing the male protagonist.
The theme of “one man’s villain is another man’s hero” is explored in depth within these pages.
The Lawgiver (god of light) comes off as perhaps a worse choice in deity than the King Below. The whole concept of good and evil is brought into question, and we find ourselves beginning to side with Jacob the Dark Lord and his Shadowkind allies against the Lightborn.
The novel also contains an exceptionally grimdark and complex romance between Jacob and his long-dead lover, Jassamine, a sanctified arch-wizard and a lawful-good character diametrically opposed to what Jacob now represents.
I thoroughly enjoyed Wraith Knight and am already thirsting for the sequel. Highly recommend!