Surprise surprise, I am lucky enough today to present one last GrimDarkTober guest post for you all! There’s always that one person who waits til the final moment before sending something awesome over 🤣
Anyway, Jamedi @ Vueltas is a SFF blogger who turns out an incredible amount of review and interview content. Everyone should check out his links below, and for now, his review of a dark fantasy called The Worthy by Anna K. Moss!
Title: The Worthy
Genre: Dark Fantasy / Grimdark
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: August 15th, 2022
Heres the Synopsis:
Blood is thicker than water.
Tell that to Prince Barsten, betrayed and abandoned on foreign soil. His sister is intent on claiming the throne and he’s intent on stealing it back. One of them might succeed, if it weren’t for a sacred creature infecting people with its emotions. Rage, fear, paranoia, despair. As their country collapses, the royal siblings must stay true to themselves or find out just how thick their blood really is.
Moss’s compelling debut novel dives into a desperate kingdom, full of intrigue, treachery and sapphic-longing. Fast-paced and awash with sinful characters and fetid settings, The Worthy is a must-read for all lovers of dark fantasy.
Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4 out of 5 stars)
The Worthy is the debut novel from the British author Anna K. Moss. As a big fan of the grimdark genre, reading it was a no brain, and I have 0 regrets about it because I felt constantly the same vibes as when I’m enjoying some of Abercrombie’s works, the same level of brutality, the morally grey characters, and those situations that make you feel uncomfortable; in definitive, what separates grimdark from dark fantasy in my opinion.
We are going to be mainly following two POVs, Ailith and Barsten, daughter and son of the king of Crell, both trying to make merits to ascend to the throne. Let’s start with Barsten, because his condition as the prince of Crell, and his struggles to make himself worthy in the eyes of his father, leads him to lead an invasion to Jintin, where he will enter in contact with a creature, the Sentinel, and where he will be treasoned by his own men (especially Grey), and almost assassinated, being captured by the Jintians. On the other hand, we have Ailith, princess of Crell, with a long list of achievements for the kingdom, but whose main problem is simple: is a woman, and we are in an extremely sexist society; her own father doesn’t take her seriously, exacerbating the conflict between her and his brother for the throne. This conflict between brother and sister will be the main fuel for the conflict in this novel
There are other POVs in this story, but personally, I found them pretty pointless, adding almost nothing to the novel and its development, sometimes feeling more like a drag than a help to the plot.
Moss uses this novel as an excellent way to treat certain themes as can be sexism, and more in concrete, how women tend to be deemed as less by their masculine counterparts, without taking into account their merits; the sapphic love is also treated, lightly, but as a subplot in the Ailith story, adding another layer of complexity to the character, one that is struggling because, despite all her merits, she is not being taken in the account due to her sex. Political intrigues are used in a brilliant way, using the conflict that the king is fueling between his sons as the better way to reach power, especially on the part of certain lords.
Characters are well developed, most of them pretty significant to the development of the story, especially certain secondary ones, such as Grey, who remembered me to Lord Varys in ASOIAF, always machinating, always doing what he considers the best for Crell, working also in the best for himself. We could call him one of the sparks that starts the fire over Crell, leading to chaos and violence.
As a good grimdark novel, violence and gore abound, following the line established by other grimdark writers. The world is brutal, almost hopeless, but still rich on the detail level. There are two different countries, Crell and Jintian, each one of them being totally different. Crell represents the status quo, the brutality, the supremacy of men over women, and the resistance against change; Jintian is the opposite, a place where equality exists, prosperity being the rule and not the exception, where people climb due to its merits (and highly influenced by keeping control of the Sentinar).
Said that I find there are some problems in this novel that don’t allow me to give it a better score, despite I enjoyed it greatly while reading. As said, I find some of the subplots adding nothing to the main story, dragging the pace sometimes (which outside of this concrete subplot is excellent); and personally, I found the ending to be too abrupt, letting so many things open. An excellent story still, but it felt like the dessert for this meal was missing.
In summary, The Worthy is an excellent debut, and a must for grimdark lovers, people who love it so much. The world created by Anna K Moss is rich, and full of nuances; and honestly, I would like to see more of the different countries there. Characters are grey, making you uncomfortable cheering for any of them, being used as the perfect way to discuss some modern themes such as feminism and equality are
About Anna K. Moss:
Anna K Moss grew up in the shire, both literally and figuratively. Books were her constant companion and she quickly learnt they were far more interesting than reality. She trained as a journalist, but news writing dealt with too much truth, so she veered off into videogames and make-believe. The Worthy was her first foray back into words, with both feet planted firmly in the imaginary. She’s happily married, queer, and has a dog called Ethel
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