The Adversary

The Adversary by Erin M. Evans is the third book in The Sundering. In this tale of devils and hellish minions, a tiefling warlock named Farideh must save the prisoners of an internment camp for the chosen of the divine. Trapped by magical barriers, a sinister wizard, and demonic contracts, Farideh is in way over her head. However, she has allies who can sway the balance. With the help of a dragonborn, Harpers, and a cambion patron, Farideh must free herself and her fellow inmates from a complex plan to steal a piece of divinity.

Like the previous books in The Sundering, this story utilizes characters that have been developed in previous books. In this case Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels and Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils. Unfortunately I haven’t read either of those two novels, so I came into this one cold. Thankfully, Erin does a really good job of giving readers enough background and context that I never felt lost wondering who these characters were. The main character in the story is Farideh, a tiefling who made a pact with a cambion in order to learn the ways of a warlock. Her twin sister Havilar is also a tiefling, though perhaps the wiser of the two as she hasn’t entered into a pact with any devils. Their adopted father is a dragonborn named Clanless Mehen, who is a viewpoint character from time to time. Other main characters include Lorcan, the cambion Farideh has a pact with and a crush on. There’s Dahl who is a Harper struggling with alcoholism and self-doubt. Plus Brin, a noble who Havilar is in love with. Together these characters each play a significant part in the book and provide quite a few viewpoints for the reader.

Havilar with glaive (aka polearm) and Farideh with sword.

The story that unfolds in this book revolves a lot around deals with devils. Farideh has a deal with Lorcan, and early on in the book, she’s tricked into making a deal with Lorcan’s sister. This in turn leads her into a lot of trouble. As part of her deal, she has to help out a Netherse wizard who is running an internment camp for the chosen of the gods. He’s trying to steal the divinity from the chosen. This plot point ties into events that were mentioned in both R.A. Salvatore’s The Companions and Paul S. Kemp’s The Godborn. In both of those books, they commented on how the chosen were being gathered for something. Here, we finally find out what. Also tying into other books, there’s mention of Sakkors crashing to the ground and Mephistopheles’ play for divinity, which I thought was pretty cool (both are tie-ins to The Godborn).

With all the different viewpoint characters, all the storythreads lead toward the internment camp and saving Farideh. Havilar and Brin form one storythread as they make their way north to find Farideh. Mehen is joined by some Harpers as they form their own search group. Dahl has the benefit of actually winding up inside the internment camp with Farideh, and works with the inmates to find a way out. The interment camp has a magic wall that keeps everyone in, thus making escape difficult. No one has ever managed to break through the wall without teleporting, and that in turn has been carefully guarded against. Then there is Lorcan’s storythread which is bit of a wildcard. Does he want to rescue Farideh or seek the favor of the hells by leaving her there?

Lorcan and Farideh.

That leads to one of my issues with the book: the characters. Lorcan is a cambion, a half-devil. He collects warlocks by getting them to enter pacts with him. On one hand, he’s evil and selfish and constantly manipulating everyone he speaks to. Yet he has a taboo affection for Farideh which he won’t quite admit to himself. Farideh, in turn, is attracted to Lorcan. Like Lorcan, she can’t quite admit it. She also realizes that Lorcan is untrustworthy, selfish, and dangerous. After all, he’s a half-devil trying to ensnare souls and serves the archdevils of the hells. So the story has this terrible romantic entanglement between two characters who won’t just come out and say they like each other. On top of that, they’re a terrible pair because they’re awful for each other. Farideh is pretty much a good character. Lorcan is at best a gray character aligned with evil. By all rights, Farideh should not hook up with Lorcan. Yet the story forces the good girl likes bad boy trope, and the two characters suffer for it. But Lorcan and Farideh aren’t alone.

Early on in the story, something happens that drives a wedge between Havilar and Brin. Prior to this event, they’re perfect love birds hopelessly in love with each other. Then this event happens and they suddenly act like strangers. It’s a little forced, but it is also brought about by Havilar’s immense sense of self-doubt. Self-doubt is a very commonplace trait for all of the characters and definitely added to my frustration with them. Havilar spends half the story unable to bring herself to the point of asking Brin whether he still loves her or not. It’s painful. On top of that, there’s Dahl who seems to have a thing for Farideh, though sadly the story didn’t do too much with that. Dahl would certainly make a better match than the devil Lorcan. Nevertheless, Dahl is just as messed up as all the other characters with his massive self-doubt and alcoholism issues.

In the end, all these troubled characters weighed down the story with their emotional issues. I felt there was just too much emotion in the story. What should have been simple or straightforward occurrences got bogged down with emotions. Buried within the story was some good characterization, some good action scenes and some fun plot ideas. However it was a hard slog through all the paragraphs of characters mulling over their self-doubts. Does he love me or not? Should I ask him or not? Can I trust this person or not? Am I any good at my job or not? Am I stupid or not? Seriously, there were almost a dozen instances where the main characters asked whether they were stupid. That’s some serious self-doubt bleeding through there, and by the story’s end, I was leaning toward ‘yes, you are all stupid.’ Throughout the book, Farideh is plagued by bad decisions that she makes. The reasoning of the characters, their thought patterns, their decisions, their emotions, I couldn’t relate to most of it. Sadly, it really hurt my ability to enjoy the book.

Having not read the two previous books by Erin M. Evans that dealt with Farideh, Havilar and their companions, there’s a possibility that that would have helped me enjoy this book more. Yet the way that the characters are written, I’m really not sure it would have made a difference. These characters just aren’t my type. I like characters who aren’t riddled with self-doubt and bubbling over with emotions. That’s not to say I like perfect characters or emotionless characters, but that the characters in this book had too much in the way of self-doubt and that the storytelling was weighed down with too many emotions. In the end, it just didn’t work out for me. While I did make it through the book and enjoyed parts of it, my disconnect with the characters was too much of an obstacle to overcome. Even toward the end, where I thought there was a chance the characters were going to turn a corner, new issues popped up and sunk them all back down the well. As is, I give The Adversary a two out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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