In honor of his millionth book sale, Will Wight has his Elder Empire series for free on Amazon, and you can pre-order the audio books from Audible for $2 each [Amazon link], which is a screaming deal. So with that plug, let’s talk about the series.
Elder Empire has an unusual and ambitious structure, with each entry consisting of two parallel books told from the point-of-view of different characters. For example, Of Sea and Shadow: Sea book 1 follows Calder Marten, Captain of the Testament, on his quest for the Heart of Nakomi, an eldritch artifact that can make a man Emperor. In Of Shadow and Sea: Shadow book 1, we see the same events from the eyes of Shera, as she and the shadowy Consultant’s Guild attempt to block any attempt to retrieve the Heart.
Since each book is roughly contemporaneous, we can see the same events in a different light, as each player and faction jockeys for advantage. We also get to explore the world and its history, where technology is based upon mankind’s tenuous mastery of powers wrested from the Elders, defeated and bound by the first, and so far only, Emperor thousands of years prior.
This is one of the darkest fantasy settings I’ve come across, but it is dark in a subtle and understated way, which is unusual. In the Elder Empire, human life is cheap, and monsters abound. The casual brutality of the Empire astonished me, but there was very little gore or graphic violence. The horror was largely off-stage and implied, which gives it a very different impact, one that dawns on you gradually. The only bright spot is when you realize this is actually an improvement from the Elder Days.
Calder and Shera very much make the experience of the books for me. I find Calder a more interesting and sympathetic character, a classic rogue with a heart of gold, while Shera is quite simply a psychopath, although that arguably isn’t her fault. Calder and Shera are clearly on a collision course, with their destinies intertwined in some as yet unrevealed fashion. Despite each of them being aligned with opposing factions in the war that develops over not only the Heart, but control of Elder technology and the world, in some ways they seek their goals in compatible ways, no matter how often Calder and Shera end up trading blows, or losing friends to the other’s hands.
Nothing is truly what it seems in this demon-haunted world, with betrayals and secrets aplenty. Wight has layered his story well enough to reward multiple reads, or listens, so I recommend picking this up while it is free, or cheap as your format dictates.
Other books by Will Wight
Unsouled: Cradle Book 1 Review
Soulsmith: Cradle Book 2 Review
Blackflame: Cradle Book 3 Review
Skysworn: Cradle Book 4 Review
Ghostwater: Cradle Book 5 Review
Underlord: Cradle Book 6 Review
Uncrowned: Cradle Book 7 Review
Traveler’s Gate series: