Righteous Fury is a prequel to a series I have not read (a 4 book series Dwarves). In some ways this is classic fantasy. The cast includes a variety of magical beings, including some elves, dwarves, but mostly the alfar. Humans also come into the story, but are mostly slaves. This race is “cruel and surpassingly beautiful artist-warriors”. Two alfar in particular command the majority of the story: Calphalor and Sinthoras. At the beginning they hate each other and belong to opposing political parties. Calphalor is more moderate and wants to focus on protecting the borders, while Sinthoras want to go to war to expand the alfar’s country. Their personal situations are also quite different; Calphalor is a happily married family man, while Sinthoras is focus on his career and political ambitions. The two are forced to work together and eventually learn to tolerate each other.
The one thing that distinguishes this story from a lot of other fantasy is that the heroes both have unapologetically villainous moments, and one of the key villains ends the story with a suggestion of heroism (I’m guessing this is a reference to the previous series). For a significant portion of the novel Calphalor seems the most sympathetic, but even he has scattered moments of casual nastiness. Similarly, even though Sinthoras mellows about 3/4 of the way through (he meets the right lady), there’s enough of him being an ambitious jerk that I never really lost sight of that. Given that the 2 are members of a race that is known for violence and lack of empathy towards non-members of their group, it could be really easy to forget that that is what our heroes are. I appreciate the reminders of the fact that they are more complex.
The one instance this complexity of main figures annoyed me was the human slave Raleeha, the main human character. She’s a princess who willingly became a slave to Sinthoras after seeing him paint. It’s no spoiler to say that she clearly has an unhealthy attachment to her master, even after Sinthoras gives her to Calphalor who give her first to his wife and daughter, and then to Timanris, an alf lady Sinthoras gets involves with. I get the sense that Raleeha is supposed to be unsympathetic as a human who wants to be an alf, but has to settle for being near them. And even when she has more human moments like getting upset when her royal brother threatens to disown her for wanting to stay with the alfar and not come home, I still don’t like her. She just keeps getting worse, even with mounting evidence that her obsession with Sinthoras is bad for her and everyone around her.
Overall, I liked this book, and I look forward to the second installment. Meanwhile, I might have to add the Dwarves series to my list.