Oct 15, 2016: Heretic: Unbound is an excellent example of an interesting fantasy work that manages to be unique without conjuring up gratuitous gimmicky elements for the sake of standing out from more clichéd works. At the time of this review, the serial is up to its 22nd chapter (currently these chapters are divided among two parts) and consistently updates weekly. I began reading around when the 6th chapter was posted and the work has only improved since then, so I made an account here to post a review about it and spread the word for what I consider to be an underappreciated work.
Heretic is about a man, Isaand, who must deal with the struggles of being a stranger, a heretic, cursed by the many gods of his world who shun followers of the unbound, gods outside of “the pact.” Most of the gods long ago formed a pact laying out their respective metes and bounds for dominion of the world based sometimes on literal geographical boundaries and other times on concepts like “justice.” This pact would primarily grant different regions and aspects of the lands to certain gods and deny it to others, creating divisions of land ruled by different regional deities. However, some of the gods refused to take part in this pact, seeing the tyranny and injustice it would bring about (or perhaps because they disagreed with the size of their own prospective slice of the pie). These gods are not bound by the pact and are universally shunned by gods of the pact and their followers. One such unbound is the god Isaand serves, Szet. This makes Isaand an outsider nearly anywhere he goes.
Isaand’s outsider persona is ironic because Isaand is a generally altruistic person who cares about helping people with the healing abilities granted to him by his god, Szet. This altruism is counterbalanced by a bitter disdain towards the gods of the pact and their tendency to worsen the lives of their constituents as much, if not more, than they better them. Along the way, Isaand must face the difficulties that come with his place as a lector (a sort of cleric) of his god, including: facing off against paladins of the gods within the pact; bestowing an ambivalent gift upon people by healing them with powers that will brand them as touched by a heretical god; and the issues inherent in helping people in need whose gods will not lift a finger to help but will persecute any outside lector who does.
One of the more interesting aspects of Heretic is that it provides the reader with several characters with very different perspectives on the world. While Isaand is the clear main character of Heretic, the third-person limited narrative at times switches to Ylla, a young girl in Isaand’s care who was abandoned by her tribe; Kierna, a paladin of a more militant and far-reaching deity who wants Isaand captured for yet-unknown reasons; and Vehx, Isaand’s sendra companion who acts as a powerful familiar who must serve Isaand’s commands, whether he likes it or not (he usually does not). While the genre is no stranger to this stylistic technique, it really shines in Heretic by providing us with characters whose roles in this world vastly differ from each other. This dynamic really brings to life the world-building that makes each faction feel like a real side with goals and doctrine justified and rationalized by their adherents.
If I were to complain about anything thus far it is that the second set of chapters, making up part II, is significantly longer than the first part and makes for somewhat odd pacing. However, this doesn’t affect my rating because the second part has a much more intricate plotline with many more moving pieces that requires more attention to adequately explore. Once more parts are written, I imagine the difference won’t be as striking as part I seems to serve mostly as a set of introductory chapters to set up the characters and setting.
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