Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.
This review is for The Revenge of Thousands by Michael Roberti.
Before we were TRAITORS…
Before there was a GRAVE waiting for us all..
While more than WORMS remained…
It started with a war. It began with REVENGE.
Praise for the Crown and Tide
“The narrative voice really shines here. Every character has a unique voice and interesting perspective…” —Timothy Wolff, author of Platinum Tinted Darkness
“…the author makes so many great character observations that I’m reminded of Brent Weeks in the lightbringer series and of Joe Abercrombie in the First Law trilogy.” —Dylan West, the author of Scribes’ Descent
“Wow. What a great study in well-laid intrigue. It had all the right pieces, from those who thought themselves clever, to those that were. It was a rolling stone with not a bit of moss growing upon it as it rolled toward its inevitable and well-laid end.” —Andrew D Meredith, author of Needle and Leaf and the Kallattian Saga
“Michael is another writer on my list of when their book releases, it goes to the front of my TBR. He’s hooked me, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store!”—David’s Best Reads
The cover to The Revenge of Thousands, along with a pretty evocative name, promised me epic battles and it certainly didn’t disappoint on that front! This is a prequel to the Crown and Tide series, which explores the beginnings of war between two factions.
The Revenge of Thousands is a multi-POV story spanning a particular family, who are effectively a group of rebels fighting against the current ruling class. Each of these characters brings a different perspective to the war as it plays out. We start with Lorcen, older son to the rebel leader Ordan, and a man who specialises in shadowy games behind the scenes and stealthy tactical missions on behalf of his dear dad. Then we have Cael, the younger son who is more your typical soldier in battle, and it’s his POV that we see most of the fighting take place. However, what I appreciated about this story is that we get to see chapters from other points of view beyond the fighting. I especially liked Ordan’s chapters, which showed him to be a charismatic leader plotting and scheming, and also Merily, his daughter, who showed how war affects those left behind.
While I did appreciate seeing different POV chapters, I do think there may have been too many to fit in a single novella, which meant the character POVs didn’t make any meaningful changes during the story. The story does go into the background of these characters, which I think would be more interesting to fans and readers of the series who had already read book one, but as a newcomer, this didn’t quite work for me as I didn’t know these characters or their history. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see one of the main POV characters identity as queer, though this was sadly never explored or touched upon again.
The setting reminded me of the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones, though it also comes with a distinct Celtic feel, especially in the dialogue accents and descriptions of food. I’m always a sucker for food descriptions in fantasy! It definitely gave me traditional fantasy vibes with plenty of sword fighting going on. There didn’t seem to be magic as such, apart from one cool world building element – when a person dies in this world, everything they’ve ever written is erased, which I imagine would make libraries rather awkward. Unfortunately, the story never explores this idea, so I can only assume it comes up in the main series.
The plot, then, is the beginning of a war between two factions as parties in the background move the various chess pieces for war, and the various POV characters take part in battles or prepare themselves for the battles to come. If you enjoy reading about skirmishes and war, then this will be of more interest to you than I, as I came to the conclusion that medieval wars aren’t really my thing. I was far more interested in the scheming going on in the background than the actual battles.
Unfortunately, The Revenge of Thousands really did read as a prequel story and I felt it didn’t do a good enough job acting as a standalone. The story acts more as a tease and build up to the larger series to come, which meant many of the interesting plot pieces that are revealed never actually reach a satisfying conclusion or are mentioned again. I imagine these are later explored in the main series. Sadly, this is the risk with prequel novellas.
I found the writing style mostly easy to follow, but there were a few editing errors that I came across throughout. I also found the accents within the dialogue quite hard to read at times, and would have enjoyed the story more if this had been toned down.
Overall, I feel as though The Revenge of Thousands would be more enjoyable if you’d already read book one of the Crown and Tide series and wanted more. As a standalone, The Revenge of Thousands didn’t do enough to entice me and left me with unresolved plot points.
Cover Art and Formatting
I quite like the cover art, which does what it says on the tin – armies fighting! I also appreciate the cover scheme and how it merges with the ocean.