The Sapphire Altar
- Author: David Dalglish
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: January 10, 2023
- Publisher: Orbit
- Series: The Vagrant Gods #2
Thank you to NetGalley, Orbit Books, and Angela Man for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: forced drugging, murder, blood, gore, violence, torture, transphobia, suicide, murder of a child, religious intolerance, homophobia, massacre
In this epic fantasy from a bestselling author, a usurped prince must master the magic of shadows in order to reclaim his kingdom and his people.
Cyrus wants out. Trained to be an assassin in order to oust the invading Empire from his kingdom, Cyrus is now worried the price of his vengeance is too high. His old master has been keeping too many secrets to be trusted. And the mask he wears to hide his true identity and become the legendary “Vagrant” has started whispering to him in the dark. But the fight isn’t over and the Empire has sent its full force to bear upon Cyrus’s floundering revolution. He’ll have to decide once and for all whether to become the thing he fears or lose the country he loves.
After the shocking cliffhanger ending of book 1, I had to jump into this one as soon as possible. I was expecting it to be exciting, but I had no idea how thrilling this book was going to be. It was full of even more intrigue, betrayal, battle, and even some … romance? Yep, all that and more.
I think what I liked best about this story is the way Dalglish let Cyrus take a little step back so that the other characters could shine a bit brighter. We still get plenty of Cyrus chapters, but we also get to see things from the POV of the other major players in the story, including Mari, Stasia, Rayan, Keles, Arn, Sinshei, and even Soma, as well as a new character we haven’t met before, Eshiel.
By getting chapters from so many of the characters we know, we really get more insight into each of their inner thoughts and conflicts. There’s a lot of character development and growth, as their belief in both their gods and their rebellion is challenged throughout the book, and they’re forced to rely on each other more and more both in battle and as emotional supports. It was especially intriguing to see some of the tougher and more closed-off characters open up, like Mari, Stasia, and Arn. I also really liked Eshiel’s character, who is explicitly transgender, and how trans people are approached in this world as twice-born and just a normal part of Thanet’s society.
The overall theme of brutal colonization and religious intolerance are explored even more deeply in this book. The empire of Gadir forces their beliefs as the only acceptable way on every land that they conquer, killing the gods that walk among the people and elevating their own laws and beliefs, and wiping out any form of rebellion that they encounter. Their laws are especially oppressive, not only because it takes away the strongly held religious beliefs that people hold, but because it also removes the acceptance that same-sex couples and transgender people had to simply exist as part of their society.
Dalglish also has an immense talent for writing villains that you love to hate. With the introduction of Galvanis vin Lucavi, the empire’s Heir-Incarnate, we meet one of those villains that is easy to hate but not so easy to get rid of. He provokes conflict throughout the book, with basically everyone he comes in contact with, and there’s an overall feeling that we don’t have his full measure since he seems like he’s always plotting or manipulating. But then again, it feels like everyone is always plotting and manipulating in this book, and that’s what kept me hooked.
This is an incredible series, and the second book was even better than the first. The action was fantastic and nearly non-stop for the second half of the book, and it left me curious about what’s going to happen in the third book, which I can’t wait to get my hands on. I had so many emotions while reading this, and it left off on another cliffhanger that has me incredibly impatient for the next book. But patience is something I have to work on, since this book isn’t released yet.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 25
Categories: Book Review