Divergent Chill: Battle of Nesma by Brian Fontenot
Warning: lots of violence, mentions rape
Divergent Chill: Battle of Nesma by Brian Fontenot is an epic fantasy, and like other books of its genre, has lots of action, a diverse crew, and a rich history. You immediately get the feeling that these characters have history, both good and bad, which kept me reading.
When the story opens up, the merry group of bounty hunters, led by Alden, a noble of the Silver Sun Empire (which rules pretty much everything), enters a sacred, and forbidden forest to trap a child-killer. Instead, he traps another feared creature: a Divergent. It’s forbidden for these creatures to leave the sacred forest unless they are called, but with her serious wounds coupled with her childlike features, Alden, who has already failed to trap the child-killer, can’t allow this one to die. So he brings her out of the forest, names her Chilali, and decides to disguise her and take her into the heart of the Empire, a creature that can kill a man multiple times her size with little effort or consequence. To put it in perspective, Alden basically went into a jungle, trapped a juvenile tiger, put it on a leash, dyed its fur a different color, and decided to walk it around a major city like any other pet. What could go wrong?
In short? A lot. When the Emperor finds out, he uses words like treason, and imprisons Alden and another member of his gang, and gives Chilali a choice: go back to the forest and never leave, or attack a settlement that’s been overrun by their enemies or her friend dies. Chilali, who wants to find the mother that abandoned her, chooses the second option, and is joined by the rest of Alden’s group, as well as a few contingents of knights, and a high-ranking knight that’s related to the Emperor, though none of them trust her and all are afraid of her.
There’s a lot of action, some gore, and the unfortunate treatment of the enslaved nations. I did enjoy reading about the history between the Silver Sun Empire and all the other nations, but what I didn’t enjoy was all the head hopping. I don’t mind multiple perspectives, especially in novels like these. It gives scope and depth that the story would otherwise lack. BUT whenever you want to switch perspective, even if it’s just for a few paragraphs, there needs to be a denotation. Otherwise, it’ll throw readers and take them a few minutes to get back in the book.
I also was a little unsure about Chilali. While she’s often portrayed as naive (for example, she doesn’t understand what the soldiers do with the slaves) and described as a “daughter of the Empire” when she’s put in disguise, she can kill without conscience and understands concepts like revenge. I can’t remember her ever being given an age, but when I picture her, I imagine a prepubescent girl, between the ages 7-11? Which makes some of her violent scenes that much more unnerving. It’s just a little detail, but those are the ones that tie me up with questions.
My last comment is on the writing, which I found inconsistent. The battle scenes flowed really well, but a lot of the dialog was stilted and awkward. The first couple chapters while the crew is in the forest were really hard to get through. Luckily, it seemed to pick up again, but stilted dialog seemed to be a problem throughout. The plot was pretty straightforward, with a couple twists thrown in, but overall it unfolded pretty much as I expected.
My Rating: 3.2/5
If you’re interested in this book, you can buy it on Amazon for $2.99 or borrow it free with your KU subscription.
Thanks for reading,