Monday, October 25, 2021

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands by K. Eason: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands by K. Eason

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands (Weep 1) by K. Eason is sci-fi set in the same universe as her earlier Rory Thorne series. Not having read that, I can’t say if characters from it make an appearance, but the plot doesn’t hint at a connection and the book can easily be read as a standalone.

That said, the first part of the book seemed to assume a greater knowledge of the world than this reader had. It took a while to get into, but it didn’t slow down the reading much. However, I still have some questions about the appearances of various species and the location of B-town.

The book is set on a remote, unremarkable planet called Tenhu. The only thing that makes it interesting is the Weep, a huge fissure in space to another dimension that runs through it. Deadly creatures called the Brood bleed from there, which requires a constant presence of Templars to make sure they don’t get out.

The world is a combination of (mostly) low-tech sci-fi and high fantasy. There’s space travel and nanotech, which gives strength to and heals the Templars, but hexes are used for powering their armour. Arithmancy and other spells are used in battle (the Weep was created by a massive spell). The town where the events take place doesn’t have any transportation and people walk everywhere, which gives it a fantasy feeling. Both sides, sci-fi and fantasy, go together seamlessly and make an interesting and unique whole.

Iari is a Templar of a large, tusked species native to the planet called tenju. She’s been relegated to babysitting Gaer, an ambassador from the vakari, an insectoid species with highly advanced arithmancy (they’re responsible for the Weep). The vakari used to be the enemy before the Brood became the common threat, and Gaer is the only representative of his species on Tenhu. He’s also a spy.

Both have their own point of view chapters, and I found them interesting and likeable characters. Iari is a highly dedicated Templar with a tight moral core, even if she has a habit of questioning her orders. Gaer was a unique character with his arithmancy and ability to read auras. The third point of view character, Corso, was a down on his luck PI and Iari’s former commander. He was a good addition, even if his POV chapters were mostly plot-related.

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is a murder mystery that gains larger proportions. An artificer of a species called Wichu, who are responsible for the technology and magic that powers the templars, is killed. The killer seems clear: a riev. They’re battle-mechas, constructs that are part (dead) people of different species, part mechanic, and also Wichu creations.  As the first on the crime scene, Iari and Gaer begin to investigate.

From the start they run into anomalies. Riev aren’t supposed to kill. They’re not supposed to have singular identities or individual desires, but they do. One of them, Char, even ends up as part of Iari’s team and was one of my favourites. But the anomalies don’t end there. They run into Brood that act as if they’re being commanded. But who’s commanding them and why?

This was a slow but enjoyable mystery with bursts of violent action. All its elements stem from the unique features of the world, which makes the story feel organic and interesting. The motivations of the killer remained a mystery though, but the next book will be about that. I’m looking forward to reading it.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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