One of my goals this year is to read and review more Canadian authors. We have a wealth of talent North of the 49th parallel. Having the power of a god is not all its cracked up to be, as Catherine Fitzsimmons shows readers in her fantasy novel Enduring Chaos.
Back of the Book Blurb for Enduring Chaos
Cursed with fearsome eyes and a dangerous gift, any chance of Damian Sires having an ordinary life was dashed the moment she was born. All her life, she has hidden her abnormalities and fought for acceptance behind the shadow of a veil and her respected merchant father.
When Damian’s power spirals out of control and casts her out alone into the world, she finds herself caught up in plots as old as the gods themselves. Bitter exiles, deposed nobility, clandestine knights, and a divine being with an ancient grudge all close in on the unstable power radiating from Damian.
Desperate to keep that power contained, she sets out with mysterious allies in an attempt to find someone who can help her in a world that fears magic. Yet the source of Damian’s ability is far more deadly than she imagined.
Damian Sires is not your average fabric merchant’s daughter. With yellow eyes, and cursed with unknown power, she hides herself in a world that bans magic. She’s afraid of what people think of her, and of what she might do to them when she loses control of her emotions. If that isn’t a recipe for an adventure, I don’t know what is. Damian can’t hide any longer when Domino, “the Crow,” finds her after she accidentally burns down a barge carrying both her livelihood and her father.
Unexpectedly, this unusual partnership doesn’t last long, as Domino gets arrested for his murderous past. Sir Magni of Misengrad becomes Damian’s guide, protector, and stirs those juicier Lady Love feelings.
But don’t expect a mushy romance story. Anyone who loves “coming of age story” adventures will identify with the beats in Damian’s journey through medieval-esque Elderra. In the absence of emotional distress, Damian is timid about the world at large. But, she’s a good negotiator and people who don’t know about her magic genuinely like her. Losing everything changes that. Although she’s so lost about killing her father that she clings to the males who show up in her life, Damian grows increasingly bold. Her choices lead her through a series of events, each one raising the stakes, as she discovers the truth about the magic within herself.
Enduring Chaos touches upon themes of trust and power, and why neither is predictable. Many of the characters have shadowy layers, especially quietly lurking Domino, who wouldn’t “ask for a bandage if his arm was cut off.” I love that line! Multiple plots twist together as we learn how the grudges of Yanuk and his ostracized mages fundamentally alter Damian’s world.
Well-written, with multiple perspectives to follow, Enduring Chaos reminds me of stories like David Eddings’ Belgariad, but with Fitzsimmon’s own twist on sword and sorcery fantasy. Sure. there are some characteristic tropes in here, but Fitzsimmons’ narrative makes the story an enjoyable read.
Damian looked up at the statue. It gave her no indication of what the chipped piece of amulet was or what the goddess’s blessing had imparted on it.
Slowly, Damian’s eyes fell to the stone fragment. Something drew her to it. She reach forward, the sensation returning the closer her fingers came to the stone chip. A voice whispered in her mind a heartbeat before she touched it, too brief for her to react.
The stone felt warm. No, hot. Its heat seared Damian’s fingertips through her body. A blinding light filled her vision. She cried out and staggered back as the temple rumbled around her, dust and fragments of the stone walls and ceiling raining through the air.
When she could she again, she gasped. Flares of brilliant light flashed out from her body, swirling through the air and leaving black scores on the floor. Stumbling against he trembling earth, she grabbed the altar to Nemir to steady herself, but the stone crumbled to ash beneath her hand and she nearly fell with a yelp. The steams of light slashed into the statue of the God of Fortune, rending deep, scorching gashes in the stone and soon breaking it in half. Her breath raced as she looked around at the quaking temple.
“What… what’s happening?” Damian felt immense power radiating through her and consuming er like the strange energy that bubbled through her when her emotions grew too strong. The horror at losing control rose like a forgotten dream after she had kept her power contained since the barge sank.
Fitzsimmons creates a mythology that echos the ancient mythologies of our past, namely the conflict between old and new gods. Damian has immense power and I would have liked to see her wield more of that magic. That’s why, to me, this book felt like a prelude to a larger adventure. The arc of the dark mages and what happens with the godly beings in the climax reinforced my perception. Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending.
The protagonist is among a sprinkling of female characters. In particular, there weren’t any stand out physical combatants (guards, soldiers, etc) who played an active role in moving the story along. That’s a little disappointing, given the narrative’s restrictions on the actions of the most powerful female characters (a male mage controls a female god, for example). I hope that the next book in the series will have a little more gender diversity among the physical sword-carrying roles. There may be foreshadow of this in the character Marise, the daughter of Captain Lyle of Misengrad.
Overall, Enduring Chaos provides a solid foundation for what looks to be a complex trilogy. I would recommend this book to fans of sword and sorcery fantasy and those who like coming-of-age adventures.
Full disclosure: I bought this book from Brain Lag Books (publisher)/Catherine Fitzsimmons (author) at Ad Astra 2016. I’ve since connected with Catherine on social media, and I bump into her at book related events, but I did not receive any recompense or input for this review. Link provided is not an affiliate link. Excerpt reproduced with publisher’s permission.