Rifter #5, The Holy Road, is a vicious and dark installment of the epic fantasy. It also holds a touch of romance and hope between Jahn and Ravishan. It’s perhaps the darkest of the novellas so far and I’ll admit I was pretty disturbed by the end of it. There is a lot of death, destruction, and mayhem offered in graphic and vivid detail. While that’s not my favorite part of fantasy, the problem here is that the story ends on a bloody note without further action to help alleviate the depressing tone. So I ended the story feeling more morose than the well written story deserves.
The Holy Road continues with Jahn’s time in the temple. Picking up some time after the last installment, it’s Harvest Festival time again and Ravishan is getting drunk to forget that he’s required to burn a young man later that evening. Ravishan’s angry outburst leads Jahn to a confrontation with Dayyid. The results of which could end in Jahn’s death. Later Ravishan is about to be named Kahlil and some important revelations about his future are exposed. At the same time Jahn realizes his own identity as the Rifter and what this means for him and others.
The high point from the last installment, which I loved, unfortunately isn’t carried over onto this one. As always the novellas are well written, intricate, complex, and extremely rich in detail and ambiance. The characters are well rounded and mostly complicated with few obvious stereotypes. As with any high fantasy story, there are going to be moments of bloody violence and death. This particular episode just happens to have quite a few of them, perhaps too many given the serial nature of the story. In the larger context of the epic book, this isn’t a problem but when read in such short bursts it feels like a lot at once. Not to mention the last scene of the novella is a bloody and nauseating way to end the installment.
On the other hand, the details about Jahn’s identity as the Rifter are simply wonderful. It’s great to finally start to understand what a Rifter is and what this means to the world at large. I truly love the details about the Kahlil and Rifter relationship, which totally changed what I had previously understood. Instead the rich nature of their bond is starting to unfold and the unexpected detail about Ravishan is exciting. There is also a brief romance between the two men, although the sex scene fades to black. It would have been nice to have some hot sex to off-set the violence but alas I doubt we’ll ever see on page sex in this particular novel.
In terms of plot building and character advancement, The Holy Road soars. There are new, unexpected revelations while both the future for both Ravishan and Jahn starts to come together. There are so many more questions now, of course, but it’s an exciting time in terms of the plot development. On the downside there are some unhappy moments with several major secondary character deaths and a lot of violence. I wouldn’t caution anyone against reading this as it’s engrossing and absorbing to the very end. However I personally hope to read the 6th book very soon to wash this bad taste away. I think fans will eagerly clamor for this edition. For those few like me that don’t particularly like graphic violence, it’s worth it because the story is just that good. I’m sure Hale will make it up to us in the next novella. For everyone else, read with confidence because it’s good.