Click here if you want to check out a review of the short story anthology, released late 2021.
If you haven’t read the first book of the series, Hero Forged, you can head to Goodreads and check out my review. Some spoilers for the previous books below.
Josh Erikson continues to astound in Blight Marked, the third outing of the Ethereal Earth series,” is how I began writing this review. Then, I realized I’d said something almost exactly the same in my review for Josh’s previous book, Fate Lashed. I hate to repeat myself – it would be nice, JOSH, if you screwed up once in a blue moon. (!) Would make my job a lot EASIER, Josh!
But no, Erikson does an excellent job indeed, chronicling the continued exploits of former con artist Gabriel Delling in his boldest adventure yet. Never have the stakes been as high as in Blight Marked, with the Darkness that ends universes encroaching on our own. Gabe and his allies, armed with guns, pointy things, and a dash of magic, find themselves racing against the literal End Times in their attempt to collect the only magical items in the world that may hold the Darkness back from ending reality. Ambitious lot, Gabe and his pals!
Unfortunate, then, that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. As a result of Gabe and Heather’s activities during the climax of Fate Lashed, everyone who doesn’t know our protagonists well enough to trust them has it in mind that Gabey is up to no good. That means a whole slew of new enemies making the life of our charming leads harder. Templars, pointy-eared fae, the bloody sasquatch, Blight Marked has it all!
But lest you forget it, at the heart of this series rests the romance between Gabe and Heather, succubus extraordinaire. The bond between these two underlies every interaction not just between them but with the outside world. What a writer of lesser skill might have used as a gimmick is given psychological depth and is used to offer insight on the two characters most key to the story Erikson has been telling over the last three years.
That said, this is the last I hope to see of our female lead, Heather, doubting the relationship between her and Gabe. It was done very well, this “will they/won’t they” aspect to their romance but enough is enough! I reckon if you manage to save the world and each other as many times as these two have, and still doubt that you’re with the right person, you deserve a slap*.
The support cast is nothing to sneer at, either. With some nifty new additions and plenty of familiar faces making a return, the cutting dialogue, fun quips and camaraderie never cease. Aka Manah is as ever the scene-stealer, his schemes and contingents always shaking up the status quo, making our protagonists sweat and forcing them to reveal what they’re made of. Just about every single one of these characters goes through some form of development, changing and growing as the story advances – and I can’t think of anyone whose growth I disliked by the closing of Blight Marked.
As always, Josh Erikson narrates his own book. The performance is spectacular, and I honestly can’t picture myself ever reading this novel when I have access to the audiobooks on my Audible account – thanks to Josh for sending me a code for this one! While I’m at it, allow me to also point out how great the cover to this one is – some of the finest cover design I’ve seen.
What I enjoy about Josh Erikson’s writing the most is that he has succeeded where so many authors fail, in that each of his books introduces rich new themes while holding onto the familiar aspects of previous installments. Thus Blight Marked moves on from the questions of how the popular imagination breathes life into gods and monsters, and instead asks if these stories, once given life, can step outside their cannon. The answer to this question, Blight Marked tells us, is both yes and no – and the examples for both speak for themselves. I’d love to dig into these but that would be spoilers…
What’s in the cards for Book 4? A return to some of the more urban fantasy elements of the series, judging by the ending – and plenty of thrilling new adventures, I’m willing to bet. Either way, I am eager to listen to the next book in the series.
You should read this novel if:
- You enjoy high-concept fantasy that seamlessly darts between geeky humour and earnestness;
- Excellent action scenes – fast and beyond engaging, making use of vivid language;
- Richly emotional characters;
- A delightfully evil old Zoroastrian deity whose style and charisma make every scene he’s in damn-near unforgettable;
- Several Star Wars jokes as bad as my own!
- And more! Prob’ly.
*I mean no offense to any world saviour couples who have broken up post-world saving.