Incursion by Mitchell Hogan was a fascinating read. The world-building and characterization are truly spectacular, and the story tackles a multitude of interesting topics, including religion, racism, capitalism, morality, and romance, all wrapped in mystery, necromancy, sorcery, and the adventures of ‘gallant’ knights. What more could a fan of fantasy ask for?
4 out of 5 stars
See the full review below!
This book is an excellent example of how good fantasy can be! I was hooked from the very beginning, which outlined the defeat of the necromancer queen by the knights of the Order of Eternal Vigilance and the queen’s promise to eventually return from the dead. From there, the book picks up 16-17 years later and follows two main characters, Carred and Anskar. Carred is the lover and captain of the former queen, who continues to lead a rebellion in the hopes her queen will one day return. Throughout the book, she continues to fight to save her people and culture from the invading knights while struggling to maintain the motivation to do so after so many years of defeat. Most of the book follows Anskar, a teenage boy on the verge of becoming a man. He longs to be the best knight in the Order of Eternal Vigilance. He works hard to pass his trials while attempting to understand his identity and growing power in addition to grappling with a deepening understanding that the Order he has always wanted to be part of may not be all it seems.
There are so many great things about this book it is impossible to include them all in this review. The characters are well-rounded and a great deal of time is spent on building an understanding of them and their inner worlds. Great care is also given to building the world the characters inhabit. The author is very good at describing different aspects of the societies involved in the story, including the religious, political, and economic realities the characters must face. I also found the magic system in this world to be unique and intriguing and am looking forward to learning more about it in future books. I liked how the author presented the world-building information as if the reader was learning the information along with Anskar throughout the novel.
As for the topics and themes in the book, there are a lot. Some of my favorites were the tackling of racism, the exploration of the impact of oppression on indigenous people and their culture, and the highlighting of the hypocritical nature of many leaders and religious figures. I was also pleased to find some bisexual representation in the book. Most of all, I loved the way the author explored moralistic relativism and the shift of Anskar’s thinking from the black and white of conventional moral reasoning to more of a post-conventional moral rationale. A lot of fantasy novels have a clear picture of who is good and evil. By the end of the novel, I was honestly questioning whose side to be on.
There is not a lot I didn’t like about this book, but I do have two criticisms. First, the book was slow and wordy at times, especially in the initial third of the book. However, that was offset for me by the characterization and world-building that occurred. Second, I was able to predict the big twist from almost the beginning of the book. The author gave a lot of hints and clues throughout the novel, and I picked up on them very early on, which made the ending somewhat less impactful. Although, I was proud of myself for figuring it out. So, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel that much overall.
Overall, I give Incursion 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it to fans of fantasy because of its great characterization, world-building, and use of interesting themes.
***Thank you to Netgalley and the author for providing a free copy of the book for my fair and honest review.