Lenk and his
friends associates are back right after the dirty action of Tome of the Undergates and they're still at each others throats.
Tome of the Undergates was a fine debut for Mr. Sykes last year. There was a lot I enjoyed in Tome such as the battle sequences and very different mythology of the world, but the characters constant bickering and in-fighting did grate on me after awhile. Black Halo proved all my misgivings were wrong and it is a superior read to Tome in most every way. Basically, if you liked Tome than you'll love Black Halo and if you loved the former than the latter will be a crotch-stomping good time.
The prose itself was quite beautiful and even poetic at times, which was one thing I didn't notice in Tome. That is not to say the quality wasn't there before, but is probably due more to my taking the first book to be more of a crude hack and slash type read then what was the actuality of a very finely constructed world with deeply conflicted characters. Tome set the tone and groundwork for these characters so much so that their evolution in Black Halo is at turns surprising, yet still very fitting. We're finally getting to the root of what makes this rag-tag band of adventures so tick and explains their blood thirsty appetites. It is almost like hanging out with your favorite D & D crew Friday nights and egging each other on for the next big quip or bloody kill. At the end of the day you all mostly get along.
Black Halo also expands the world in new and weird ways. I'm almost of a mind to call it cross-genre as Sykes is working in what I would consider some New Weird elements such as lizard-like humanoids in addition to the purple-faced warrior goons we met in Tome; not even to mention the creepy sea monsters that could have been found in a Lovecraft story. What makes this series great is it keeps you guessing about what will happen next and what kind of monsters are still around the corner. Also, a new view point is introduced of an adept magic user many years Dreadaeleon's senior who has some serious abilities that I wish were showcased a bit more (standalone story anyone?).
The first 100 pages or so the group is separated from each other for an extended time and some undergo what seem to be hallucinations, which at times made it hard to follow what was real and imagined for these characters as at least half talk to themselves quite a bit outside of these events anyway. But they are also some of the most illuminating scenes including one that is getting to be known as the philosophical monkey. Hint: He's a bastard.
If this was a series you were on the fence about then let me alleviate your fears. Sykes has writing chops and knows how to use them with plenty of cruelty, humor, and even a touch of heart. I give Black Halo 8.5 out of 10 hats. The only thing holding me back from a higher rating is the overall story arc didn't have as much forward movement as I would have liked, but the table is set for that to happen in the next volume of the The Aeons' Gate.
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Lenk and his