Verdict: With beautiful prose and incredible world-building, BLACKCLOAK: A MAN OF HIS SWORD is a hell of a start to an unusual dark fantasy series that deftly combines psychology, magic, and philosophy into a disturbing character study.
A man destined to be a powerful weapon struggles with self-identity as powerful forces race to claim him for their side. BLACKCLOAK: A MAN OF HIS SWORD is a dream-like adventure through a shattered mind in a world filled with strange creatures and unusual magic.
In a land similar to ancient China, the humans live in fear of the Night and the horrific entities that only come out during full moons. In the strange realm of Kae’fre, two powerful women battle for control of the Blackcloak. One has the power to control dreams and the other can reshape reality. As the two battle, Blackcloak is broken into two personas and forms a third as a defense mechanism. The story follows the women’s dueling as Blackcloak struggles to choose a destiny apart from those forced upon him. Not knowing what is true or a dream, the Blackcloak battles through the nebulous dreams and misshapen reality to unlock his memories. From a battered childhood as Dog-Ears to a skilled assassin Char, in what can only be described as psychological interrogation, Blackcloak’s mind is broken and reassembled. While Blackcloak confronts the nature of his true self, the women prepare for a war in which he will be the deciding factor. This novel is the first in a series known as The Bloody Tapestry of Kae’fre.
BLACKCLOAK is a difficult novel to summarize. The entirety of the book is a purposeful jumble of dreams and half-truths. W. James Chan sculpted a twisting narrative that slithers through strange dreams and shifting realities, leaving the reader to discern what to believe. This may seem confusing, but it works really well in execution. While the reader rarely feels sure-footed, the story gradually begins to cohere into an incredible read. Blackcloak’s journey is a line that Chan stretches and twists into a spiral, condensing an epic into one book. The writing feels poetic at times, but always maintains that unusual edge of dream-like psychology. There are some editing and formatting issues that could be polished to increase clarity, such as a character’s unique dialect. All in all, BLACKCLOAK is a lyrical and haunting journey through a fractured psyche with a fascinating mythology and strong writing.
With beautiful prose and incredible world-building, BLACKCLOAK: A MAN OF HIS SWORD is a hell of a start to an unusual dark fantasy series that deftly combines psychology, magic, and philosophy into a disturbing character study.