Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Temple of Valor Part Three: Astar's Blade is a true fantasy novel by Joe Lyon which features impressive world-building, some interesting characters, and an elaborate plot.
This book has enough world-building to rival some of the book in the Jaralii Chronicles series by Joanne Reid. It also features a traditional plot very reminiscent to The Angels of Resistance by David V. Mammina—pitting the forces of light (like the priestly warriors of the “White Eminence”) against the forces of darkness (“The Demonic”). This book also pits these ancient factional forces against each other whilst they circle around a central axis consisting of much younger and more vulnerable protagonists—Astar and Micah—teenagers who remind us a lot of Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings, respectively.
Chen-Li, the 60-year-old pyrokinetic master of the White Eminence priesthood, seems to fill a similar role to someone like Galadriel: a very overpowered and stoic character with a very black & white view of the world, both literally and figuratively. Chen-Li might prove to be a favorite character of many readers. He reminds us of so many characters, but among them are the aforementioned Galadriel as well as Seraph (the stoic Asian guardian from The Matrix trilogy), and even Count Dooku from the Star Wars prequels. He seems like a guy who truly believes he's doing the right thing, all the while being as severe and pigheaded about it as possible. Chen-Li is one of those old heroes who may have lived long enough to see himself become the villain. He is supposed to be the leader of a peace-bringing organization, yet he is basically a walking manifestation of the inquisition and crusades all wrapped in one. He brings the full wrath of the divine (often referred to as “the goddess” or “Ehlona”) onto his enemies.
The Temple of Chen-Li sits in geographic opposition to the titular Temple of Valor (it is even implied they may be in viewing distance of one another). Forgive us for any error in understanding because we're missing context from the previous two books in the series, but the Temple of Valor seems to be frequented by the mysterious Lady Valen, a being known for her rare ability to heal the sick and wounded. Indeed, many sick and wounded come to her for healing. The true identity of Lady Valen and the secret behind her ability are major plot points in the story.
The inciting incident that sets this plot in motion seems to be the moment when Micah finds a mysterious hole in the ground, bringing it to the attention of his best-friend, Astar. Soon, ghoulish winged beasts snatch them away. During the traumatic scuffle, Astar and Micah are separated and these Devourers (flesh eaters who work for the Demonic) are only able to successfully carry off Micah, ironically the far less valuable of their targets. The devilish creatures then consider what to do with Micah and lean toward eating him. The leader of the Demonic, though disappointed at having not captured Astar, still sees value in Micah and looks to sew discord between their longtime enemies: Chen-Li and King Leopold. So, this abduction actually sets in motion a dramatic chain of events that largely involve political (and, at one point, even judicial) intrigue with different sides advocating for different ways to deal with the new threat.
Some champion the act of saving the boys while others value simply slaying the demons and/or saving themselves.
It is actually a lot like when Merry & Pippin are abducted by orcs in Fellowship of the Rings, it sets in motion the subsequent events as the heroes pursue rescuing the boys.
A lot like the villains in Angels of Resistance, the Demonic are quite unique characters. They include Langula, who seems to be their COO and the one who ends up poisoning Micah as a means to an end. Not like it really matters, but it is interesting to note that Langula is a she-demon similar to Satka in Angels of Resistance. She is “evil” yet not absent of love, care, and affection. She definitely has a thing for Frost and is definitely loving, caring, and affectionate toward him. It's amusing to see a villain with these qualities, but that's like saying that it's amusing seeing the affection between two mass-murdering, sadistic psychopaths. The Zorn, meanwhile, seems to serve as the chairman of the board or CEO of the evil operation. But all in all, Langula—similar to Chen-Li on the other side of this struggle—steals the show.
Another awesome thing about this book are the amazing weapons in it. Gensen has a sword called Vengeance. But the weapon that really steals the spotlight is the sword named Soothsayer—a weapon that seems to vibrate as a warning or a prophecy to the worthy wielder. An unworthy wielder might find their hand plastered to it and helpless. Soothsayer reminds us of old myths of a “singing sword” and is likely based on those myths. It also behaves a bit like Excalibur and Blade's weapon in Blade.
One last thing we very much appreciate about this book are the maps that the author provided in the beginning. Any fantasy author who takes the time to provide a GOOD and QUALITY map of their world is a next-tier fantasy author.
This also has one of the best covers we've seen!
You can check this out on Amazon!