The Bookwyrm's review of Son of a Liche by J. Zachary Pike
Author: J. Zachary Pike
Length: 616 Pages/ 20 Hrs, 9 Mins (Audio)
Release Date: May 22, 2018/May 3, 2018 (Audio)
Publisher: Gnomish Press LLC
Narrator: Doug Tisdale, Jr.
Its always a worry when getting book two in a series with a first book as good as Orconomics that the book will be a letdown, not being able to capture the same magic as the first. Well, after reading and listening to Son of a Liche, I can attest that this is not an issue. While it follows in the same vein as Orconomics, it improves in a lot of ways what was already a fantastic series debut. More action, deeper plot, character revelations, bigger stakes for the overall world. In other words, it is a fantastic book in its own right.
One year after the events of Orconomics, the party of Gorm, Kaitha, Jynn, Heraldin, Gaist and Laruna are still hunting for the remnants of the betrayed Gazvarda tribe of orcs, and having no success. In fact, they haven't had nearly the success they planned on. The Heroes Guild and kingdom have a a huge bounty after them, and they haven't had the impact helping protect the Darklings they had hoped to. The Darkling races of Orcs, goblins and other assorted races that were screwed out of their NPC status have formed the Red Horde, forsaking their clans. Meanwhile, the bankers and King that had betrayed them all are starting to haul in the loot from revoking the NPC's papers.
Deciding to put the Gazvarda quest on hold, the party comes across a skeleton that is animated. This is bad news, since the only one who could animate a skeleton is a necromancer, and the group only knows of one of them operating currently: Datarr Urmayan, Jynn's father, currently a powerful undead Liche! Following the skeleton, they discover Jynn has gathered an army of the undead and plans to invade the Freedlands. Hatching a plan to recover some artifacts that may help them fight Datarr, they meet some old companions of Gorm to help equip them, and recover a powerful artifact to use against him.
Facing Datarr in battle as he attempts to destroy the bulk of the Kingdom's army and Heroes Guild, the group is defeated, and Datarr gains even more converts to his cause. you know, the cause of undeath. It does have a great benefits plan, after all, and he actually goes recruiting with surprising results. Licking their wounds as they barely escape, The party comes up with a last dich plan to stop the necromancer and get an army of their own: Namely, the Red Horde. Now, if only the Red Horde didn't want the party dead, thinking they were the ones that betrayed them to the Heroes. All of this leads to a climactic battle in the Kingdom's capital of Andoran, with an amazingly staged battle scene that has more twists than seem possible. The book ends with plot lines resolved, but the story isn't over. In fact, it will be continued in Dragon Fired.
I can't stress again how fantastic I found this books. The characters were all fleshed out even more, with more revelations about their pasts, some of which were just completely unseen. The dialogue is crisp and witty, and it just comes across as banter that real friends and companions would use. You really sympathize with their struggles, and cheer at their successes. The setting is expanded even more, and the author's world building is some of my favorite in all of fantasy. You just feel like you are right there in the middle of the action at all times. The same issues from the first book are addressed. The nature of heroics, the good and ills of a market economy, especially when its abused by those in charge. Those same individuals, though, also show how easy it is to fall from grace. Even the least of us has it in them to be a hero, as several of the characters show.
Doug Tisdale, Jr. did his usual fantastic work narrating this one. He had an even bigger cast to work with, and he still managed to give them all a life of their own. While Gorm may be my favorite character he does, several others were almost at that level this time. His narration is smooth and flowing, never lagging or monotonous. He has crept up into my top 3 narrators with this performance, it's that good.
All in all, this is probably my favorite read this year, a year that included Kings of the Wyld, Blackwing and The Great Hearts. Lofty company, but it has something for everyone who likes a fantasy novel, with elements of comedic, epic and grimdark fantasy woven throughout. I can't recommend it highly enough, and you are missing out if you don't try these out for yourself. If I did stars, this would be a 10 out of 10 stars. Its that good.