The Life Siphon (ParisDude’s Review)


Title: The Life Siphon
Author: Kathryn Sommerlot
Publisher: Nine Star Press
Release Date: May 20, 2019
Genre(s): Fantasy
Page Count: 295
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5

Blurb:

A magical energy drain is siphoning life from the land and leaving a twisted, decaying wasteland in its wake.

Safely isolated in his forest home, Tatsu wants nothing to do with the drain or the other citizens in the kingdom of Chayd. The only people he cares about are his childhood friend and her strangely prophetic sister, but there’s no avoiding the threat once Tatsu is arrested and taken to the capital. The Queen of Chayd offers Tatsu his freedom—but only in exchange for sneaking into the neighboring kingdom of Runon and stealing whatever is powering the siphon.

Ravenous trees and corrupted predators lie between Tatsu’s team and their prize, but the drain’s destruction is nothing compared to Runon’s high mages, determined to protect their weapon. As the truth of the siphon’s power reveals itself, Tatsu faces an impossible question: how much is he willing to sacrifice to save one man’s life?

What if that one man could destroy everything?

(This revision includes an important new first chapter, previously unreleased.)


Kathryn Sommerlot—with a name like that, how can one not write good fantasy fiction? This novel makes us enter a world where smallish, neighbouring kingdoms that remind of fiefdom-riddled Europe in the very early Middle Ages seem to live more or less peacefully (for the moment, that is) on a strip of land wedged between the sea and long, high mountain ranges. Chayd, which I gather lies to the south, is ruled by a queen (unmarried, it seems) struggling to prove she’s just as capable as a king could be. To the north, without access to the sea and isolated in the mountains and valleys, Tunon is ruled by a ruthless king, who’s assisted by an even more ruthless high mage and her son. We briefly encounter the king’s gay son Yudai in the first chapter, where he proves to be even more powerful than those high mages. But then he’s captured and drugged, and with a cliffhanger we’re left wondering what’ll become of him (no worries, the author brings him back into the plot a bit later).

Tatsu is a young man living a secluded and event-less life on the outskirt forests of Chayd. But one day, his childhood friend and former lover Alesh comes knocking on his door with her mentally impaired sister Ral in the tow. As she has a stealthy mission to accomplish, he asks him to look after the girl. Grudgingly he accepts. And he shouldn’t. For when she comes back, she’s wounded, and the queen’s guards are close on her heels, arresting both her and Tatsu. Brought before the queen, they are offered their freedom if they accept to sneak into Runon, where a strange magical weapon is slowly sucking the life out of Chayd, killing forests, beasts, and crops alike in the process. Having no other choice, they set out on their quest, accompanied by one of the queen’s mages. Little do they know what the secret Runonan weapon holds in store for them, but they get a first glimpse when they enter the Weeping Forest, until recently a lush woodland, but now creepily dead/undead…

I do declare, this is quite an accomplished fantasy novel I read here! Pitch-perfect world-building, fluid and clear prose, great pace, suspense and intrigues, believable, likeable characters… As for the romantic entanglement, it is such a slow burner that we don’t even get a first kiss, however. If you really need sex scenes and sizzling chemistry, you will be sorely disappointed. There are hints that we might get more of that in a follow-up novel (maybe the whole thing is even a series consisting of more books?). I for one didn’t mind at all—when a story is good, I can live without gasps and groans and the exchange of body fluids. Alas, as chemistry is one of the criteria to note books on this site, that takes off some points, so I wish to stress the fact that for me, the book deserves at least 4.5 stars. Kathryn Sommerlot knows how to write, in any case (and she damn well knows how to put her commas—that’s so rare I feel the need to point it out, not one comma missing or placed in the wrong place). I’m now waiting impatiently for the next book as there are several threads left open. Don’t misunderstand, this can be read as a stand-alone novel, but you’re sufficiently kept wondering about some secondary characters and their roles as to make you curious where Ms Sommerlot will take you from there in the follow-up(s).

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of The Life Siphon provided by the editor in exchange of an honest review.

Author

Dieter, born and raised in Austria, studied Political Sciences in Vienna in the early 90s. He’s living in Paris, France, with his boyfriend and working as a graphic designer. In his spare time, he loves to write, read, cook, take photos, and travel as often as possible. He’s already published two short-story collections as well as four poetry collections. His first murder mystery novel “The Stuffed Coffin” featuring Damien Drechsler and the dashing Greek student Nikos has been released on Jan. 6, 2019, and is available in English, French, and soon German. Dieter is also writing reviews for Gay Book Reviews under the pseudonym of ParisDude.

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