Verdict: Arresting and unique, EXHUMATION: An Epic of Existentia (Acts of the Sojourner, Book One) is a deep dive into a world that never existed.
Pious Argentum is a Prime Prefect, a leader of a religious army who lives in a place called the Sanctuary. Expected to conform to a strict set of rules and doctrines, Pious is supposed to be an example of morality, but what people don’t know about is his secret marriage to a woman carrying his child. The Sanctuary is under siege: heretical religious sects have gathered together in a huge army, hoping to destroy the Sanctuary once and for all. But Pious has his own problems. Framed by political rivals, Pious and his friends face exile from the only home they’ve ever known. There, they befriend a strange species of hairy forest-dwelling folk, and meet a future none of them could have imagined.
S.A. Chapman’s EXHUMATION: An Epic of Existentia (Acts of the Sojourner, Book One) is, unfortunately and fortunately, every bit as Baroque as it sounds. The book begins with lengthy exposition and charts and infographics to clarify the intricacies of Pious’ religion, which makes Tibetan Buddhism look comparatively simple. More helpfully, there is an extensive glossary at the end, invaluable in deciphering sentences such as these: “The Vigilants … they were slaughtered – because of us. They charged the enemy’s Sunspheres, gaining time for us to retreat and re-enter the Arboretum, through the Curtain,” or “You cannot deny it – it radiates from your Animaura, bleeding into the Aether … but do not worry, you are not Hexen’Darq – you are spared from the Naetherblade.”
But although EXHUMATION is a bit of a hefty read (despite not being that long of a book) it isn’t without its merits. The tension inherent in a protagonist serving an Orwellian theocracy (although their enemies the heretics sound like a nasty bunch too) is weirdly counterbalanced by Pious’ general likability and charisma. A generally relatable and even funny hero (or maybe antihero?), it’s somehow very hard to root against Pious, no matter whose side he’s on. The worldbuilding is every bit as intricate as implied above: a fully realized world (or worlds, in fact) await you in this text. There are few if any cliches in here (the Ewok/Wookiee-like furry woodland people aside.)
EXHUMATION is an expansive and immersive book, a whirlwind journey that seems to have no end in sight. It’s difficult to say what future installments of this series have in store for Pious and company, but this book does set up some intriguing possibilities.
Arresting and unique, EXHUMATION: An Epic of Existentia (Acts of the Sojourner, Book One) is a deep dive into a world that never existed.
~Chaz Baker for IndieReader