Cover Image: Obsidian

Obsidian

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Member Reviews

The cover intrigued me. I really enjoyed the magic system and the world that Sarah Daley created. The themes that are explored in Obsidian are ones of friendship, power and sacrifice. I am interested to see what comes next for Sarah Daley
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It took me a little while to get into this with the writing style, but found the further in you got the more it flowed. I really enjoyed the magic system in the book, but it does come with a TW of cutting. I found myself invested innthe characters and loved Shade, a confident kick arse female mc.
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Obsidian – Sarah J Daley 

 

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in order to provide an honest review. 

 

Sarah J Daley is an American author who hails from the Chicago area. She was previously a chef but now enjoys writing full time. “Obsidian” is her first novel. 

 

Malavita is a land affected by the blight. A taint left on the land, a remnant of the long ago battle between the Sicani, ancient and powerful magic wielders, and the Unseen, demons that work in the shadows. 

There are those who are doing what they can to stop the blight’s progression across the lands of Malavita. The Golodrina tend the fragile qaraz, the magic lines, that help protect the land and the people against the blight. But the more it is polluted by the blight the more the land and the people suffer. 

The only solution is to erect a magical veil that will help protect the land and the people of Malavita. The only problem with this is that the raising of a veil requires immense power and a set of magical stones – stones that are closely guarded by the Brotherhood. An order of priests who over time have slowly lost their way and true purpose – now they are corrupted by the very things they supposedly strive to protect the people from. 

Only one person in Malavita stands a chance of erecting a new veil – Shade Nox, or as some know her, the Black Witch. She will have many obstacles and prejudices to overcome if she is to achieve her dream and save Malavita. But what will she need to sacrifice to achieve her dreams, is it something she is prepared to pay.... 

 

“Obsidian” is a dark fantasy tale that has a very intense story line. Shade Nox is your heroine who has been painted into a box that does not fit her and has had to fight for what she has and to live the life she has chosen – but she has a past that still haunts her. Raiden Mad is the seventh and most expendable son of an Emperor, exiled to Malavita on a mission that would most likely mean his death. I liked the journey the author took us on with Raiden and with Shade – they had good character growth and had relatable issues, dark past and parental issues. Overall the story was intense and spell binding with lots of action that seized the readers’ attention from start to finish.
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Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.

Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.

To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.

Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.

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It's a dark epic fantasy book. I'm a huge fan of grim dark fantasy and somehow this book just felt flat to me. I want to enjoy it but it's so bland. The main character, Shane, is definitely a badass. But it feels like a YA fantasy with all the attraction everyone has for the main character and also the wishy-washy feelings. 
Thanks to Netgalley for the e-ARC
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Thank you to Angry Robot and NetGalley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I started out quite enjoying this book. I liked the Italian mafia/gang-inspired setting with historical aspects, plus the dustpunk element was pretty cool. I was interested to see how this portrayal of colonisation would play out, and I thought the different levels of stakes the characters had in the plot were established. That's unfortunately where my enjoyment of this book ended. 

These are some of the more minor things that I didn't like: 
- There wasn't an adequate explanation for why Shade was so angry about her father's death when by all accounts--including her own!--he was pretty horrible to her. It gave the impression that they were very close when they clearly weren't. 
- This one might be a little nitpicky but it took me out of the story a bit: why is Shade even called Shade? Her last name being Nox is fine because it's Latin, but I don't think wanting to give a character a "cool" name justifies breaking the language conventions of your world. 
- The climax of the plot hinges on the Wild Power, but we never get a good explanation for what that actually is, so it fell a bit flat. 

If the only issues with this book were the minor ones listed above, it would have been a much more enjoyable read. Unfortunately there were some major issues that need addressing:
- I could tell that the author was attempting to avoid it, but this still ended up essentially being a white saviour narrative. This could have been partially avoided if Shade hadn't spent the whole book talking about how she was going to be the one to save everyone etc etc., but I think there still would have been elements of it.
- There was never an explanation for why Raiden isn't affected by the magic in the same way as the other characters (who are all native to the nation the story takes place in), and also for why he's a preternaturally good swordsman. The Bhaskar Empire already felt "Asian"-coded and Raiden is very much coded as East Asian ("fine black hair", "delicate features", etc.), so this felt very uncomfortably close to "ninja" stereotypes.
- Speaking of the Bhaskar Empire, we did not get enough information on it for it to feel fleshed out at all. And the way it was coded was pretty bad too. Bhaskar is a Hindi word and yet Raiden (who is from the Empire) is very East-Asian coded, so this ended up coming across as yet another story by a white author who ignores the incredible diversity within Asia and so lumps all Asian identities together indiscriminately. 

- And finally, the friendship and romance coding between Shade and Matteo was all over the place. Matteo confesses his feelings for her and they begin a physical relationship, which is fine and I did appreciate that a female lead character got to explore more than one relationship, but the level of feeling Shade had for Matteo after that was frankly pretty unrealistic. At most she's attracted to him and she's maybe starting to develop a bit of romantic interest in him, but there's absolutely no way her feelings for him were strong enough by that point to literally bend time and change events for him when he dies, so it all felt very "insta-love" to me which I hated. And then after all that they claimed to be "just friends" but also "beyond lovers". I understand that they bonded through shared trauma/experiences, but if there wasn't intended to be a romantic element to their relationship, it shouldn't have been so strongly coded as such. It's possible to write female/male friendships that even become friends-with-benefits relationships without romantic coding. 

The fact that the pivotal events of the book were dependent on the strength of a relationship that was established far too late in the story to be deep enough and for us to care enough about it for that to work was a bad ending to a book that already had many issues.
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I loved the fantasy vibes and world building! But the rest wasn't really for me. I definitely think this book will have it's own audience - it just didn't work for me, personally. I didn't quite connect with any of the characters and I need that to keep me really invested.  Would definitely try the author, again, in the future though!
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The world building & magic in this book was amazing, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters at all. They just lacked a lot of development. I just wish the story and characters were worthy of the world they were set in. I will read more from this author for the world building alone though. It was that good.
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For me this was a slow start, but once you got into the world building — wow! Seriously intricate world building really turned the book around. Plot moves nicely after about the halfway mark. 3.5 stars rounded up from me.
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Thank you netgalley and the publisher for my copy of this book. This is my honest review.

Author did a good job. Characters were okay.
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I’m rather frustrated to say this but Obsidian had such promise but ultimately it didn’t make me particularly feel anything lasting. That’s not to say this is a bad book, it really isn’t, it’s just also a little, well, average.
 
Shade Nox is the main character, she’s the Black Witch, she’s also beautiful and defiant, misunderstood, a brave hero etc, on paper she’s a character I would love, but she very much feels like a character written with all the best qualities of a heroine. The problem with this is that it’s too obvious, Shade doesn’t develop as a character, she’s great fun, don’t get me wrong, and if you take this book at face value, you probably will still enjoy yourself, I just don’t particularly like it so obvious the author’s intentions for me to like someone (as pedantic as that sounds). Also frustrating is that Shade, while created like some feminist heroine, is largely described by her looks, near every male character is in love with her and lusts after her – and within the book she sleeps with 2 of these characters and another one longs for her. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, part of empowerment is that a woman has as much right to want and enjoy sex, but emotion is also thrown into the mix and it gets a bit confusing whether Shade just wants to enjoy herself or needs to be loved, especially when the 2nd man is because she can’t have the 1st one and it’s just an instant thing with no building! The supporting characters, also, are interesting in theory, just not developed enough to be gritty or engaging. This part of the frustration, the characters have potential but they’re just not complex enough.
 
To be less negative, I found the premise interesting. I didn’t particularly understand how the magic worked, how the tattoos channel magic, or the stones that people have in their swords etc, again it’s very surface level when I’d prefer it deeper, but it’s still an interesting concept and there is some good action on the page and I did still enjoy Shade. The writing style is also easy to get on with and this is a quick read.
 
Thank you NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review
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An interesting, but sometimes confusing story

-Big thanks to Netgalley for the eARC-

Shade Nox is a witch...in a land of wizards. And she's a wanted criminal. Despite that, she wears her magical tatoos and obisdian blade with pride. Veils of protection haven't ben raised in centuries, but she vows to raise one of her own to protect her people nonetheless, even if it will expose her every secrets. The Brotherhood swears to destroy her before she can, endangering her life. But Shade is determined to see her quest through, no matter the cost.

I enjoyed this book, but I was confused at times. I don't know if it's because of me or the story, but I sometimes had trouble understanding exactly what was going on. However, it didn't prevent me from really liking the main character, Shade. She is a very strong and determined woman, with a somewhat troublesome past. She is quite fascinating and following her on this journey was really fun. There were a lot of twists and turns, several points of views and many plot twists that surprised and confused me both sometimes. I really enjoyed the story as a whole, a good fantasy story with magic, friendship, love and betrayals. The world was interesting as well, but maybe a bit too complex and big to easily understand everything. The side characters were fun though, I liked how they stood by Shade's side no matter what, how they trusted and respected her. There are some strong female characters in this book, which is probably what I enjoyed the most. I didn't expect the story to take the turn it did and it was a very pleasant surprise. The ending was really intense and I was rushing to read what would happen. 

I'd say I recommend to fantasy fans who aren't afraid of a somewhat complex story.

"I said the price was too high. I never said I wouldn't pay it."
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I enjoyed reading this. I loved Shade. She's such a badass. The plot was fast and intense. 
Great world-building. The magic system is interesting. The display of magic is amazing. 

This is was a really great read.
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I ended up DNFing this one 26% in. 

The synopsis had a lot of things that intrigued me: an all-powerful sorceress, blood magic, arcane powers, etc. But it took me MONTHS to even get to the 26% mark. The potential that this world could have had was bogged down by writing that just wasn't engaging. The character of Shade Nox, the main character, suffered from, rather than embodied, "main character syndrome". We were supposed to believe that she was super powerful without any real proof of that. I think that by the 25% mark, the reader should have a good feel for the character, but I didn't get that with Shade's characterization. She was badass but with no substance.

I also took issue with the worldbuilding (or lack thereof). I was just so confused with the mechanics of the world. The blood magic was explained, roughly, but there was no explanation about the different types of gems the blood magician's blades were made of. Could that have come after I put the book down? Sure, but spending 26% of the book mildly confused about everything was offputting. I don't need the worldbuilding to be spoonfed to me, but a little something would be nice. 

All in all, this book just didn't grab me, and I felt removed from both the story and the characters.
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I was ready to give this book a 4-star rating pretty soon after I started reading it just for the worldbuilding alone. I'm not sure what this says about the kind of reads I've been completing recently but I do have to say that having an interesting and immersive world is always one of the best ways to get me into a book. However, that's never enough. By the time I got to the end of the book and started thinking more about what I read, the cracks started to show. 

Right from the get-go, I think that labelling this book as an adult fantasy is what causes the disconnect for me as a reader. For one thing, the main character acts very much like a teenager despite the crimes that have been pinned on her and the burdens she carries. The violence is quite graphic, so perhaps that's why. However, I think it's still quite reasonable considering that the magic is based on power coming from one's own blood. There are depictions of sex but those seemed so forced and came out of left field for me. The romances she gets entangled in are so extraneous to me, especially because much of the feelings there were developed off the page. 

In fact, the same can be said for many other things, such as part of the action, why Shade was so feared as the Black Witch, everything of her past that seemed to have made her who she was. The pacing of the book is middling, with things happening to push things along, but it's all to make the plot progress, not due to any conscious choice of the characters. There's even a part where Shade says the sacrifice she needs to make to raise her Veil is too great that she can't pay it. But she'll still do it. And I hated that, thanks. 

The characters in the book are so one-dimensional, often taking one aspect and turning it extreme. This aspect makes it much harder to relate to the characters and you need to invest yourself into the overall point of the book, the raising of a new Veil, to push through to the conclusion. The story also makes it seem like we're being set up for a full and expansive series, yet Obsidian is meant to be a standalone. Even the worldbuilding reflects this, as well as the ending of the book. 

Definitely read the book if you want to discover a new world and be swept away from your problems by reading about someone else's. This is an entertaining and adventurous book that will give you some fun. There are so many aspects to the world that you can learn about and it never really feels enough. It's really hard to put down the book once you pick it up because there are so many things that keep you coming back for more. Still, I wish we did get more--more plot, more action, more nuance--because the worldbuilding really deserves it.
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First off, Thanks to Netgalley and the Angry Robot publishing for hooking me up with this book.  Nothing is this review was prompted and I was not paid to write it.

Obsidian was quite enjoyable. The story is about a young witch that is tasked to raise a veil to protect her people.  There are, obviously, many obstacles throughout her journey.  The book starts off in a pub,  That is where we meet two of the main characters,  Shade and Raiden. The story unfolds from there including, Dante, a city prince and some other fun characters.  Let the adventure begin! 
The story bring you though the reasons why she should and should not raise the new Veil.  Despite the warnings she is determined to protect her people.
Shade draws the attentions of Raiden and Dante.  The first part of the book was was actioned packed with a vaguely described romantic scene.  Later in the book, there are several more romantic scenes one is pretty explicit. Not as bad as it could be but more than needed.
The character building could have been better and feel like the story jumped around a little bit and there were a couple holes that needed to be filled.

Besides that, I really enjoyed the book.  It did drag me in pretty quickly and I did have a hard time putting it down.  I do recommend the book and look forward to future books by this author.
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I was drawn to Obsidian because of the cover and the premise of the world. I love magic and beasts plus when you throw in magical shields I found this really interesting.

The pace moves fast from the very first page as we are dropped into the action very early on. This reminded me of The Maleficent Seven, another AR book that I really liked. I don't mind politics in fantasy if they are done well and I especially liked the mix of elemental and blood magic with different gemstones determining the level of power. The fact each person used them differently made this even more interesting.

The main character was fun because she had her own personality. She is arrogant and doesn't care who knows it. It made a change to other books I read where we follow the main character who has white qualities.

With all this being said however, I struggled to get into this one and remain focused for any length of time.  The problem is that its such a plot focused book that it never really delves that far into the characters themselves or their motivations.  Everything seemed like it was being glossed over and this made it difficult to get fully invested. I think more dialogue between large groups of characters would have helped alleviate this plus gave us more character interaction.
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DNF at 30%
The premise of the book sounds amazing! The only female bloodmage has the ability to raise a veil to protect people from the ravenous waste. Her goal? To show the brotherhood that they’re not the only ones that can do that.

I applaud Sarah J. Daley for a creative idea, for a non-typical Fantasy setting, and for writing a standalone (which is what Fantasy readers need more of).

So, why am I then saying that this should have been a Duology or trilogy? Because her idea would deserve it. Sarah created a vast world with lots of details about the history, cultures, etc. unfortunately they feel rather lackluster. I think, if Sarah would have had more time to develop everything properly as part of a series, it could have been so much better.

Now, it feels like there’s a lot going on, some things come out of nowhere, and are a bit all over the place. 

The magic system is brilliant! I love that the magic here has a price. But again, it felt a bit all over the place. The tattoos, the blades, the cutting… maybe just two of the things instead of all cramped into less than 400 pages? Also, why the blades if they are not even used for the fights?

And then, I didn’t like the main character. That’s more a personal preference, I think. I don’t mind unlikable characters, but Shade’s arrogance just didn’t work for me. I’m simply not a fan of the “I’m great and I know it” type character (like Joe Burrow’s „of course it’s real jewelry. I earn too much for it not to be…”). Ugh. And why are so many character descriptions just focused on their hair color and style?

The writing overall is great. Sarah is great with words. She definitely knows how to show a characters strength. Again, I think with a bit more work and making it into a series, it would have worked better for me.
Side note, her writing style reminds me of Sarah J Mass, just better.
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3.5* upped to 4
I had high expectations for this story as the blurb was fascinating and loved the description of Shade.
That said I think my expectations were too high and I didn't like Shade.
It's quite fast pace, entertaining, but the characters are somehow lacking personality and Shade was quite unlikeable.
I liked the world building but it seemed a mix of romantic fantasy and grim-dark. Lot of potential but some more character development would have helped.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Obsidian is a really good first book by Daley.

PLOT: There is great world-building, as what the world has become is a major element in Obsidian. Shade's motives are clear and what she plans to do it's for the greater good. Although Shades intentions are clear it's the other people intentions that create the drama, and the way Shade deals with them. The issue with the Brotherhood and who wields magic is an aspect I have seen before.

CHARACTER: Shade Nox is a great character. I love that she dresses like a men and people fear her as she isn't someone you would mess with.


 
WRITING STYLE: I liked Daley writing especially with some of the action/fighting sections.

Overall: It is an enjoyable story with a world of potential.

My rating for Obsidian is 3.7 out of 5.
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Actual rating: 3.5/5

Obsidian by Sarah J. Daley tells the story of an outcast ready to sacrifice it all to protect her people.

When Raiden first lays his eyes on Shade Nox, he thinks she’s an angel, though that couldn’t be further from her character. Shade is a firecracker of a character doing everything she can to protect her people, including raising a protective veil for the first time in a century. Her tough exterior persona hides a deeply vulnerable, kind yet hurt interior which she learns to embrace throughout Obsidian. Because of this arc, she’s an easily lovable character, and one at the heart of the group.

Raiden, on the other hand, takes some more time to get used to. When he disembarks in Malavita, he scorns the island and its ways, something that remains with him for much of the book. As the Empire’s envoy, he spends a sizeable chunk of the book considering himself above the islanders, and only learns to respect them in the second half. Despite his banter with Shade and Dante, and his mysterious talent with magic, it takes far more on his part to prove himself, both to the other characters and the reader. The most interesting aspects about him were the way he behaved in battle. As a trained assassin and human shield, his actions are almost instinctive, yet Daley leaves enough breadcrumbs to wonder whether it’s more than that.

Dante was the least developed of the trio. A prince who has spent his life regaining the prestige and riches his family lost to tragedy, he immediately supported Shade’s plan. As a character, he is often arrogant and quick to anger, though Shade can bring out his lighter side. He is also fiercely loyal to everyone in his household, even putting himself in harms way to protect them.

Focusing on Shade, Daley brings up some interesting questions when it comes to the romance. Rather than having a love conquers all approach, she allows her characters to consider how a romance would impact their goals and future, then decide on whether to pursue it. One arises out of grief, whereas another amicably dissolved. It was even more interesting to see different characters reach the same conclusion about their relationship. I haven’t often come across romance used like this outside the romance genre and it definitely added depth to an already engaging story.

Daley’s biggest strength, however, is her world-building. The Empire is a land ravaged by a blight that was unleashed long ago stemming from the island of Malavita. Now, parcels of land are protected through ancient Veils and a sect of priests called the Brotherhood are the only ones who know how to create one — until Shade Nox arrives. Daley also attempts to give each group their own culture, though she doesn’t elaborate enough is certain cases. The people living outside the Veils are the most distinct and I would have liked to see more of the Empire’s culture through Raiden.

Even her magic system strays from the usual, combining blood and elemental magic that can only be wielded safely through gemstone blades and tattoos. Daley goes into detail the most on her magic users. Separated into factions and skill level, their garb, blade and tattoos set them apart from the general populace. Unfortunately, she doesn’t elaborate as much on the types of gemstones and what they mean, especially outside the Brotherhood, so I couldn’t form a complete image of the magic system.

There were aspects of the book that felt rushed. One of the romances came out of nowhere as did a final antagonist. The worldbuilding, while impressive, could have been less grand in order to focus on the aspects that really mattered, such as the pacing, which wasn’t consistent.

While I enjoyed Obsidian by Sarah J. Daley, it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on its own. However, the author has tremendous potential, I would like to see what she can do with a series of books under her pen.
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