Tomekeeper’s Marginalia: A fearsome pathfinder, a lost conscript, a demoted commander, an ancient assassin, and a rebel spy walk into a book and build a story charged with mayhem, myths, and magic. As a cosmic war reshapes the land and anti-imperialist rebellion spreads throughout Rengas, political games and intimate journeys collide to deliver a thoroughly engrossing and brilliant debut.
As multiversal magic reshapes the land and anti-imperialist rebellion spreads throughout the world of Rengas, political games and intimate journeys collide to deliver a thoroughly engrossing and brilliant debut.
Michael S. Jackson’s The Path and the Way unites the POVs of a fearsome pathfinder, a lost conscript, a rebel spy, and non-human warmongers to build rich lore and clever worldbuilding. Fascinating from beginning to end, this book’s beautiful cover art easily captured my eye, but its core pales not in comparison.
A daughter and a father fight against time to find her missing brother, amidst a land torn apart by mysterious forces. An aimless idealist faces the horrors of war. A spy masking as a courtesan uncovers deadly secrets and navigates the political games of a conquered city. A demoted commander and an ancient assassin dance around scheming and imperialist thirst.
Jackson binds all these separate storylines together with a common link, deftly exploring the boundless possibilities of a multi-pov narrative and the way it can open up the sprawling new world of a Fantasy book by centering its characters’ intimate ambitions.
One of my favorite things in stories is intersectionality, in all its definitions. I have a huge soft spot for SFF that emphasizes this meeting of personal journeys with broader landscapes. In Ringlander, we have the juxtaposition of personal quests with political instability, as war and conflict loom ever closer.
For the Bohr, non-human imperialists, hunger for the lands of the Nord, the one region they have failed to annex. Its wilderness proves not just a mystery but the unknown path that will squash any hope the Bohr empire has of expanding, human natives both kindle and nuisance to this goal.
Whether to uphold or destroy it, every character has a connection to both one another and this wider conflict, and I was fascinated as I pried those connections apart.
I think the more I read the more I appreciate the skill that goes into detail, the very construction of each story element. And I swear, nailing it like Jackson did looks harder than turning away from your dog’s little face when you leave home (you know the one…the cute fuckers). But Jackson surely makes it work.
It’s such a joy to read books like this; stories with a backbone—exquisitely layered, lovingly thought out and written with such passion that the feeling of wonder I imagine inspires an author to create a world easily translates to the reader.
While I was reading The Path and the Way, I kept marveling at every tidbit of information, how all the tapestries of myths and hierarchies of this refreshing world unfold through the characters’ interactions with it and one other.
Every chapter, a new piece of worldbuilding glints like gold in the sunlight, and I suspect my best magpie impressions happened while oohing and aahing at each revelation.
Clothing, social structure, cultural festivities, even tattoo culture; these details are my favorite things to explore in the Fantasy genre because they make worlds feel real. Not in the sense that they’re immediately recognizable but in the sense that complexity is the most absorbing form of art. Discovering thrilling new worlds is the highlight of SFF and I deeply enjoyed the artful unraveling of Ringlander’s from start to finish.
The Path and the Way blends the throes of war, rich worldbuilding, and alternate realities bleeding into one other (to remind us that in the end we are but specks of dust? I appreciate that) into a cracking concoction of storytelling done right.
(We received an ARC from the author, which has not influenced our opinion on its content.)
Identified trigger warnings: War themes, colonialism, forced conscription.
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To read more about The Path and the Way and the world of Rengas, visit the other reviewers on tour! ↓
Reviewers on the tour:
Abbey @ Abbey’s Booktopia
John @ Tales From Absurdia
Nick @ Out of This World SFF
Nicole @ The Bibliophile Chronicles
Alex @ Spells and Spaceships
Paul @ Paul’s Picks
Emi @ Slavic Reader
Beth @ Before We Go Blog
Johan @ Library of a Viking
Athena @ One Reading Nurse Reviews
Michael @ Track of Words
Maggie @ The Reading Stray
Petrik @ Novel Notions
Kayleigh @ A Little Biblio