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Jeff Salyards Books In Order

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Publication Order of Bloodsounder's Arc Books

Scourge of the Betrayer (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
Veil of the Deserters (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
Chains of the Heretic (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

Jeff Salyards is an American author of fantasy and science fiction books. Jeff is best known for his series The Bloodsounder’s Arc, which tells the story of legendary soldier Captain Braylar Killcoin and his First Company known as “The Syldoon.” The first book, Scourge of the Betrayer, won Best Novel (36th Annual Predators Awards), while its sequel, Veil of the Deserters, was named the 5th best fantasy of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews.

But Salyards isn’t just an excellent storyteller. He also knows how to write strong female characters who are smart enough not to get themselves killed despite being surrounded by bloodthirsty barbarians or stone-cold killers.

Scourge of the Betrayer
Jeff Salyards is an author who likes to keep a low profile, but that shouldn’t devalue the quality of his writing, as it’s evident in the first book in The Bloodsounder’s Arc series, the Scourge of the Betrayer.

He writes tight, fast-paced stories with great characters. He has created a complex world filled with unique races and fascinating politics, and intriguing elements throughout only three books.

Jeff Salyards may be a not-so-famous author, but his first novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, is full to bursting with talent and all the assurance of an established author at the top of their game.

Scourge opens with a pair of back-to-back prologues -one set twenty years prior and another continuing directly along from it. This style thrusts us headlong into a vividly real world and asks us to care about two sets of people: one we only get brief glimpses of, and another we see so much more. But both are equally memorable because Salyards succeeds in making us feel for them.

Scourge of the Betrayer is a dark fantasy that’s not afraid to show its teeth, but it doesn’t wear gothic armor or revel in gore. The author avoids the self-conscious overuse of profanity and the excessive violence that appears too often in recent dark/grimdark fantasy titles.
The novel has a sense of maturity, making it stand out from other novels crowding similar genre niches.

Salyards takes all the tropes you’d expect to see in grim and dark fantasy, mixes them together with his own spin, then sets everything on fire before giving us back our world subtly changed by what now lies just outside our history books, now written as myth.

This is an author who understands his craft well enough to make it seem effortless.
Scourge is also a novel that balances character development alongside world-building. Neither of these aspects is neglected in favor of the other; both are blended seamlessly together from the outset.

It takes skill for any writer to balance their writing equally between different components but by doing so here, Scourge’s story is all the stronger for it: it becomes a richer, more profound experience that doesn’t rely on one element.

By avoiding focus on certain tropes that can become overused in dark fantasy, fiction Scourge goes beyond “just” being dark – there’s a real sense of moral ambiguity at play here. This comes from the fantastically realized characters, all of whom have their own agendas and flaws rather than just those that affect their interactions with others or those around them. They’re flawed, conflicted people who feel they exist beyond the page; even those we don’t see for long remain memorable.
Salyards tells his story through Arki, an assistant librarian who becomes embroiled in political intrigue and violence simply because he happened to be nearby on one fateful night.
However, Arki isn’t our only viewpoint character. We also spend some time inside the heads of other characters such as Captain Killcoin and Ivis – another critical player whose presence, like Arki’s, looms large throughout the tale. The great thing about each of these characters is that they’re not presented to us in judgment; we are allowed to see them for who they are without Salyards passing any kind of moral verdict on their actions.

This makes Scourge of the Betrayer all the more involving, as it feels far less black and white than your average fantasy novel. There are no heroes or villains here because everyone’s goals are their own.

This lack of imposition in characterization extends beyond our leading players too. Even when Salyards depicts antagonists, he does so with insight into motivation rather than throwing in random sadistic acts simply because his characters can be bad guys. This isn’t a simplistic tale of good versus evil, and Salyards is all the more believable for it.

Scourge defies classification within the standard genres: it’s violent and darkly humorous in equal measure, yet it’s also introspective and character-driven too.

It has the feel of an epic that doesn’t conform to expectations, and its bestiary is not only imaginative but well integrated into the novel’s themes rather than used as a wholly separate aspect or written in for its own sake.

Scourge is one of those books that works on many levels: at times brutal, visceral, emotive, or even somber, but other moments are equally fantastical, humorous, and action-packed. But, more than anything else, it’s a compelling read that will leave you wanting to read the rest of the series as quickly as possible.

Veil of the Deserters
In Veil of the Deserters, the main character is Captain Braylar Killcoin, who serves his Syldoon majesty’s empire as a soldier in its armies.
The Syldoon army has countless soldiers under its command, but only two categories define their function: Immortals and Black Shields. Immortal swordsmen make up the bulk of the army and are used for routine policing actions, while Black Shields take on special operations beyond enemy lines where they do things like a spy, sabotage, assassinate, etc.

The Syldoon empire is a fierce one, and the armies are no exception. To become a Black Shield means you have to survive three tours of duty with an Immortal unit first. If the soldier survives, the belief is that they will be able to handle nearly any situation they find themselves in. The penalty for failure, however, is high…very high. All failed Black Shields are executed. Braylar Killcoin has been serving as a Black Shield captain for over ten years now.
His past is revealed piece by piece, mainly through flashbacks interspersed throughout the narrative, while some memories into each other create dreamlike and nightmarish scenarios and experiences. Each flashback is like a piece to a puzzle, slowly revealing Braylar’s history and who he was before becoming the man we meet in the first chapter.

Once we get past his history, we find ourselves thrust into the present day, where Syldoon soldiers are stationed on an island that has been recently captured by native inhabitants. We learn that one of the natives managed to escape capture and got word back to their main force gathering elsewhere, but no one seems able to translate what they’re saying except for Braylar for some reason.

The native appears at several points throughout, and although he doesn’t speak much, he knows more than anyone else about this whole situation. The natives are a very mysterious group who follow a path that has them ritually killing their own people. They’re not above ambushing and attacking the Syldoon either, which complicates things for everyone involved.

As Veil of the Deserters continues, Braylar’s past is revealed through flashbacks while current events happen simultaneously. Everything seems to flow together nicely, though, and it never felt confusing or too disjointed even with all these different points of view jumping around.

The world-building in this novel is done really well. We get a lot of information about the Syldoon and their way of life, with many scenes occurring around the army camp and training. There are some great scenes involving horses, which give an added flavor to everything, making it even more engaging.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jeff Salyards

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