My review of fantasy novel The Final Decree by Shami Stovall
The Kingdom of Luka is controlled by the decrees of God-King Eliezer. Break one and become a twisted monster or serve forever, loyal to the crown. From the author of Frith Chronicles and Star Marque Rising, comes a new fantasy epic.
When God-King Eliezer utters a decree, it’s the law of the land, no matter how subtle or outrageous. Those who break the decrees suffer the god-king’s curse—their bodies twist into nightmarish monsters of devastation and hunger, forever a blight upon humanity.
The magic knows when a decree is violated, the moment it happens.
There are no exceptions. No loopholes. No escape.
Artemisia, a mysterious girl on the run from God-King Eliezer’s Holy Guard, is cursed and doesn’t know why. Fortunately, she has yet to change into a fell beast, but that isn’t a comfort. She could transform at any moment, and the resulting monster would destroy everything she cares for.
Desperate and fearful, Artemisia finds herself captured by a group of monster hunters led by Rylion Nasos, a man of superhuman strength and skill. When Artemisia displays magic of her own—magic that threatens God-King Eliezer’s rule—an agreement is made to confront the crown, despite the horrors it could unleash.
Cursed be the man who disobeys the god-king’s direct command.
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Excerpt from The Final Decree
I stumbled forward, fueled only by hate.
The soldiers of the god-king had taken everything from me, but I would be safe once I crossed the border. Denying them the satisfaction of my death would be my final act of defiance.
The winter winds rushed past, as bitter and cold as my thoughts. I walked the long road through the Kingdom of Luka alone. I was a stranger—a random woman—nothing more than some wraith passing by, devoid of purpose. People regarded me with suspicion, and I hurried along. I tried, at least, until I tripped and fell.
I hadn’t eaten.
Snow provided little in the way of sustenance. It sated my thirst somewhat, but my gut twisted in agony. It felt like my stomach was consuming my insides, cannibalizing the other organs to keep me alive. I knew it wasn’t, but my nightmares had been filled with such imagery, and it was all I could dwell on.
I pulled my stolen blanket tightly over my body, unable to stand. With gritted teeth, I continued at a crawl. I should have found shelter and rested, but I was on the edge of town, by the first few houses that lined the road.
When merchants rode by on horses and carts, I glanced up, hoping they would spill something edible. They didn’t, of course—no successful merchant would—and I contemplated my situation with dreaded realization.
I might die here. In some town whose name I didn’t even know.
“That’s a nice blanket.”
The tone put me on edge. It wasn’t a compliment, but an appraisal.
Review of The Final Decree
I’m a big fan of Stovall’s work, so when this popped up for review, I jumped on it. The world is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Stovall—large, interesting, and complex. So many elements; so many ideas to explore and fantasy aspects to be fascinated (and a bit disgusted) by. If this world wasn’t so dark, I would gladly go for a visit. Instead, I’ll admire the details from afar.
While the world was engrossing, though, I struggled to connect with many of the characters. Artemisia (Artemis) was just angry, angry, angry, and while this later got some context with her fire-god parent, that explanation felt too little, too late. By then, I just didn’t like Artemis very much because she was so mean to everyone and didn’t really seem to care that she was a jerk. That more or less sums up how I felt about many of the characters—they had one overarching personality trait that ruled much of who they were. Rylion was stoic. His brother was humorous in the face of danger. One character was bitter, another all about self-loathing. The list goes on, and while each character strayed from their main trait every so often, those moments were far apart.
I really enjoyed the exploration of having power. Decrees were made based on a ruler’s personal beliefs, and then those beliefs became life and death for the people. Seems like there’s some social commentary going on in there, but that commentary didn’t feel over-the-top. It fit the world and the story, rather than coming across like a deliberate bashing of any specific real-life situation, something that’s becoming all-too-frequent in SF/F.
There were some truly gory descriptions in here. If you get grossed out by that kind of thing, read with caution, and just be aware that pretty much anytime a forsaken shows up, there will be violent images. The ending left enough questions that there could be a sequel, which I’d be interested to read. Recommend this one for dark fantasy fans.
About Shami Stovall
Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, with several best-selling novels under her belt. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.
If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:
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