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ARC Review: Bastion by Phil Tucker

Scorio will rise from the ashes to conquer the ten layers of hell.

Reborn without memories, Scorio learns that he is a Great Soul, a legendary defender of the ancient city of Bastion. That within the hallowed halls of the Academy and under the stern eyes of the underworld’s greatest instructors he will enjoy enormous privilege, rediscover unique and wondrous powers, and one day return to the millennium-old battle against their infernal foes.

Until he is betrayed. Singled out and sentenced to die for crimes he can’t remember, Scorio is hurled to his doom—and forgotten.

But from even the dimmest spark an inferno may one day rage.

Clawing his way back from oblivion, Scorio vows to return to the Academy at any cost. To emerge from the ruins and within those golden walls defeat his elite classmates in a quest to ascend the ranks and change the course of history. For only then will he learn about his forgotten past, and why his enemies have rightly feared him since the day he was reborn. 

I received a free copy of the Bastion ARC in exchange for my honest review.

What is Bastion about?

Bastion is about the journey of Scorio. Scorio is a Great Soul, a person reborn after death to serve as a soldier against the deepest parts of the Pit of Hell and help their people return to a distant land long since closed off to them. When Scorio is awakened, he is put through the Gauntlet–a series of deadly traps and enemies–and informed of his identity only to be cast out from his peers. Bastion follows Scorio’s journey from the bottom to the top as he works to channel enough mana to fuel his power.

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Tucker describes his novel as a “progression fantasy” which is essentially a form of epic or high fantasy in which the power of the main character progresses through a series of levels. The novel pretty succinctly lays out the “levels” for Great Souls and describes Scorio’s challenges as he ascends the ranks.

Tropes: The real treasure was the friends we made along the way!

Oh yeah, there is so much found family/importance of friendship going on in this book. So. Much.

Plot: A scrappy upstart underdog fights his way through all of hell (or starts to)

That’s it, that’s the plot.

The Good

There is some fantastic writing, character development, and world building in this book. Though we are primarily given the perspective of Scorio there are a couple of “interludes” that give some glimpses into the minds of other key characters. Through Scorio’s eyes, the whole world is new and largely unknown–even frightening at times. He makes an excellent character for introducing the readers to the world of pit fiends and mana leveling. Scorio also is introduced without knowing anything about himself or his past. This allows the readers to learn more about his character as he does, making for fewer exposition moments in which characters tell us their characteristics but do not demonstrate them at all. The mana leveling system is explained in a way that doesn’t feel out of place but a natural progression of the training Scorio undertakes. Side characters are fleshed out for the most part, and despite the multiple false climaxes throughout the action in the book the final climax is a genuinely satisfying one. Altogether, you can tell that this book was a labor of love for the fantasy genre and an excellent demonstration of writing skills.

The Okay

Occasionally the consequences Scorio faces don’t quite match up with either his actions or his expectations. Some of this is story driven, in which characters act in unexpected ways, but on occasion it felt that the story said one thing and Scorio felt another and they didn’t quite line up.

The Bad

My only real issue with the book is how unnecessarily purple prose-y it can get. The first ten to twelve chapters are full of overly long descriptions utilizing twice as many words as necessary. As someone who’s written fantasy myself, I know how tempting it can be to throw in all those extra words especially when establishing the tone and setting for the story. But don’t let those first few chapters stop you from making it to the meatier parts–the extra wordiness doesn’t entirely disappear but gets a lot more streamlined as the novel progresses.

Final Thoughts

This is a fantasy novel that I whole heartedly recommend to the fellow fantasy readers who’re a little tired of reading the same progression of tropes and plot points over and over again. The first few chapters can be a bit difficult to chew through, since both reader and characters are largely unsure of what’s going on, but as the story progresses the characters become far more interesting, the world developed, and the magic system reveals itself in very cool ways. In a few scenes, the next plot point reveals itself a bit too early, but despite this it’s still intriguing to see how the situation will play out and what the reaction will be. Scorio is unpredictable, both as a character and as a narrator, and often makes choices that surprise reader and side characters alike. There are several climactic moments in the book leading up to the final challenge, and though one of those action packed sequences seems the most daunting of them all it doesn’t entirely stand out against the real plot of the story. It pokes its head up, makes itself known, and then sinks back down so the readers can reenter the main story. All in all, a fascinating read with a clear progression of power, well rounded characters, and some seriously great scenes for character development and action alike.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “ARC Review: Bastion by Phil Tucker”

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