by Reed Logan Westgate
Genre: Fantasy / Historical
Print Length: 341 pages
Reviewed by Timothy Thomas
A bewitching tale weaving fact and fiction in spellbinding fashion to both horror and delight
Soulstealer Origins by Reed Logan Westgate is a fantasy novel that is equally about the unlikely friendship between a Templar Knight and the Pale Rider as it is about corruption, betrayal, magic, and religious zealotry.
Set in the era of the Holy Order’s decline, Soulstealer Origins is a well-executed blend of history, religious dogma, and fictional elements. It tells a heartfelt story that asserts the humanity of a monster while affirming the monstrousness of humanity.
It is the Lord’s year 1303, and the famed holy crusaders known as the Knight’s Templar have fallen from the height of their power. Two knights, Lucious de Montfort and Marcus, lead a company of men into the mountains of Matra, outside the town of Eger, in search of a fabled weapon powerful enough to turn the tide of the war that threatens to consume their holy order.
They find that the weapon they seek, imprisoned in the mountain for centuries, is not an item to be wielded by man, but an instrument of God who is a harbinger of the end of days: the horseman of death. The knights free him from his prison on condition that he aid them in their war.
As they settle into the town of Eger, intent on waiting out the rest of the winter, they quickly learn that the front lines have fallen, the Pope has been killed, and there is no one left they can trust.
Lucious, reportedly in possession of the weapon they found, leaves Eger for Paris to take focus off of Marcus and the horseman, whom they’ve named Oxivius, as they remain in town. With their relationship growing each passing month, and tensions rising in both Eger and Paris, Oxivius and Marcus find their friendship, faith, and destiny are tested as nothing is what it seems.
This book is really well-balanced for all that it contains, and it maintains that balance by keeping its focus on Oxivius and Marcus. Oxivius is an integral part of the plot, but he is fascinating on his own. Having lived, and destined to live, far longer than any of his companions, he has a unique perspective on life and humankind. He recognizes the futility of any relationship he might have, lamenting his lengthier life span, yet he cannot help but crave companionship like any other man.
His conversations with Marcus are particularly telling, as he frequently challenges the knight in his faith, yet he himself is clearly in search of something to believe in. Oxivius acknowledges he is a man-eating soul stealer, but he is tortured by his nature and destiny, and aspires to be better. Marcus is the reason why.
Marcus is as zealous as any Templar Knight, having dedicated most of his life to the cause. But when he becomes the unwitting babysitter for the monster Lucious decided to release from the mountain, his faith begins to waver. He is challenged by Oxivius and comes to witness the corruption of the church he has always believed in. Marcus’s character is beautifully written, and the fall and rise of his faith brilliantly constructed. In his story, we find that faith in man may always disappoint.
Reed Logan Westgate has delivered something truly unique in this novel, and I’m excited to see where he takes it from here.
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