Nathan’s Review of A Quiet Vengeance by Tim Hardie
Book One in the Samarak Tales
This Book is For You is You Like:
- Dual timeline narratives
- Political fantasies and court intrigue
- Low magic
This Book is Not For You if You:
- Like books where characters do things (this book is very talk-y)
- Want lots of magic in your fantasy books
Nimsah is an abandoned child living on the streets of Bengarath, surviving on her wits as part of a criminal gang in the City of Tents, home to the dispossessed. Dojan is the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujareen, enjoying a life of luxury in Bengarath Palace. Their lives are brought together as the threat of war looms in the neighbouring city state of Kandarah. However, Dojan and Nimsah share a secret, one that will set in motion a chain of events leading to vengeance.
Tim Hardie does it again with another political fantasy brimming with explosive moments, slow burn political intrigue, and jaw dropping twists.
A Quiet Vengeance tells the story of Dojan and Nimsah, former childhood friends who get embroiled in complex political maneuverings involving invading empires, powerful banks, and long lost magical cities. In a world inspired by West Asian cultures, while feeling completely original, this is a book that explores the interplay between politics and money, and their combined uncaring agenda of taking what they want. And what they want here is a long locked away magical power that can change the world.
A Quiet Vengeance is set in the same world as Hardie’s other series, The Brotherhood of the Eagle (starting with Hall of Bones), but it otherwise unconnected. The only significant amount of overlap that comes into play in this book is the magic system (“The Sight”), but magic plays a significantly smaller role in this book than it does in the Brotherhood of the Eagle series. The magic system might be slightly confusing to someone who is just jumping into Hardie’s world here because The Sight is not well-defined in A Quiet Vengeance, but it’s not a significant enough issue to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the book.
The book is structured as a dual timeline narrative. In the “present day”, we follow Dojan, the Crown Prince of Fujareen, who is trying to prove to his father that he is a worthy successor to the Emirate. In the “past timeline” (set roughly a decade earlier), we follow Nimsah as a young girl living in the slums of Fujareen who we know (from Dojan’s chapters) becomes a high-ranking authority of an all-powerful bank. These dual timelines worked beautifully. Most of the time when books are structured like this, they are in service of some twist, “gotcha” moment, or other plot device. Now, the dual narratives in A Quiet Vengeance do have some plot-related consequences, but what I loved most was that Hardie used the two timelines in service of developing the characters. Nimsah is present in both timelines – as the POV character of one and as a side character in the other (although we do get her perspective for the current events late in the book). Therefore, what Hardie does so well is allows us as readers to get to Nimsah as a young girl, but then keeps her at arm’s length in the present timeline. Through Dojan’s eyes we only see her as the mysterious and powerful banker; the girl he once knew. We know who Nimsah was as a child, but we don’t quite know who she is now. It really makes Nimsah the best of both worlds – she’s the readers best friend and a total mystery. This is how you use dual narratives for full effect.
If there is one thing to know about Tim Hardie, it is that he loves a large cast of characters. The dramatis personae in this book is not nearly as extensive as his other series, but there are still a lot of named characters in this book. While I thought the extensive character roster in Brotherhood of the Eagle made that series a bit cumbersome at times, here Hardie has found the perfect Goldilocks spot. There are enough characters to make the world feel complete and the different political factions distinct and fully realized without being overwhelming. No individual side of the political conflict is overly demonized, and no one side of the conflict comes out looking great, which only works because of Hardie’s wonderfully complicated and layered character work. I recently recommended The Brotherhood of the Eagle for fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, but if this series keeps up the quality, the Samarak Tales might be my go to recommendation!
Tim Hardies also loves his complex politics, and A Quiet Vengeance comes through in spades. Fans of court politics will absolutely adore this book. There are lot of royal family infighting, international intrigue, and lots of scheming and plotting. This does mean that the book spends a significant amount of time with “people sitting around a room talking”; this book is far from action heavy or with characters doing things. Not a critique of the book itself, but this book won’t be for readers who like their plots to be action heavy or move swiftly. While I really enjoyed the pacing of the book, it is a political slow burn. Luckily, the Nimsah flashback chapters are a bit less political (although lots of intrigue here as well!) that nicely break up the tone/pace of the book.
And ooh yeah, once the book picks up in its final act it doesn’t let go. Betrayals, backstabbing, assassinations and more all fly at the reader as the political maneuverings of the early parts of the novel finally come to their full fruition. I always appreciate how Hardie structures his novels – he really appreciates the gradual and methodical place setting before completely ripping out the tablecloth and watching all of the plates come crashing down.
The other thing that readers should know is that the level of magic in this book is very low. I mentioned that the magic system for Hardie’s world is “The Sight”, which factors prominently into his previous trilogy and much less so here. I actually like the low magic feel of this particular book – the magical elements never game the political players an easy “out”, and yet the magic of this world was the main driver of everything going on in the novel. I guess I would compare it to CL Clark’s The Unbroken in that there is magic, but the focus is not on the magic (at least in this first book in the series).
An exciting low-fantasy novel full of court and political intrigue, Tim Hardie here shows readers another part of his ever expanding world. Nimsah in particular is a compelling character, and Hardie uses the dual timeline structure of the novel to both develop her while keeping her distant. The first half is a bit slow (but never plodding), and then the final act brings everything together in a jaw dropping climax. Whether you have read Hardie’s books before or not, this is a great read.