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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
In the Company of the Dead (The Sundered Oath, Book 1) by Ciara Ballintyne opens with a scene in a raucous tavern, where Ellaeva, priestess of the Goddess of Death, Ahura, is getting a crucial lead from her informant regarding her parents’ killer – a Rahmyrrim priest whom she’s been searching for all her life. The information leads her to Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais, the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris, a military genius, is serving out his exile for striking his prince.
Ballintyne’s deep characterizations make you feel for the people she’s created, root for their endeavors, and gasp at their tribulations. I gravitated towards Ellaeva instantly, the enigmatic Left Hand of Death. Lyram, on the other hand, is more fathomable, a man left vacant by the death of his wife, but still with enough rage against his enemies. Is he delusional to think that the nobles are conspiring against him and framed him for the murder of his wife? His closest aides seem to think so. It was intriguing and engaging as I followed Ellaeva’s quest to understand her Goddess’s true intention about Lyram while trying to find her parents’ killer.
The clash of the gods, political scheming, a castle under siege, and a hidden enemy make the premise solid. The action scenes with the element of magic and spells are vivid and suspenseful. The prose is wonderfully evocative and the plot has good twists and is well-paced; the story doesn’t take too much time to unfold, but doesn’t hurtle too quickly to the end either. In the Company of the Dead is an engrossing read, a good choice for fantasy fans who like a meaty storyline.