Mature Characters Matter: Why I Love Balthazar

I want to take a moment to have an expanded discussion on one of my favorite things about the books by Kat Ross (see my review of Kat Ross’ latest book The Necromancer Bride coming Monday Oct 7th .) That is her mature characters. So many times these day mature is used to describe adult-rated content (or content for the 55+ crowd,) but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about characters who are deep, well thought out and act like real adults. Which is so refreshing, in a world awash in YA novels with adults who act like teens.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love YA. Just sometimes I read it and wish that the characters made smarter decisions, that they acted more like adults, that they had deeper motives and more definition.

Slight spoilers ahead… continue to the end to enter to win a  Amazon Kindle copy of A Bad Breed.

One character who seems to really stand out to me in this way is Balthazar.  Balthazar has been there practically from the beginning of Kat’s fantasy world. In the Epilogue to The Midnight Sea he is introduced as an evil antimagi.

The one who carried the urn went by the name Balthazar. He was old, although not nearly as old as his mistress…

He was the strongest of the antimagi, the one she trusted above all others.

In the days of the ancient Persian Empire Balthazar had been a magi, a sort of priest of the  ancient Persian religion, until he’s expelled for dabbling with forbidden elements. When we meet him he is in the service of Neblis, the Queen of the Dominion. A dark queen who rules hordes of un-dead ghouls and revenants. The antimagi are her servants they use chains to drain victims of their life force, thus extending their own lives and allowing them magic abilities, like wielding fearful black lightening. The  antimagi are ruthless, and Balthazar more so, killing whole villages, enslaving women and children with the chains, and are guilty of many depraved and despicable acts. Later these antimagi will be know as Necromancers.

Balthazar is more than the top dog among the antimagi, he is also Neblis’ lover. But it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. Even in the epilogue where he is introduced we get a hint that there are doubts, cracks in the world of Balthazar and the antimagi, and those have nothing to do with the stories hero’s who are so valiantly fighting against them.

It’s towards the end of The Queen of Chaos that I really began to enjoy the depth of Balthazar’s character. He ended up being so much more that a 2-dimensional villain. As revelations come to light and choices have to be made we see Balthazar making decisions less like a ruthless antimagi and more like a lost sheep. We see how Balthazar’s past has shaped him and we begin to understand Neblis’ corruption of him. We see a man desperate to be free.

This is rich stuff for a villain, especially for an under-boss. Many popular fantasy novels don’t flesh out the character of the under-boss like this. Neblis is the big baddie, Balthazar is her tool, her thrall.

He ends the series disappearing off the grid, maybe changed, maybe not. We are unsure if he is still a villain or perhaps something else.

About a thousand years later he resurfaces in the Gaslamp Gothic series as a Victorian Count…

He is at first a background player and of course our hero’s are very weary of him and his motives. Balthazar isn’t the only necromancer still around, but he’s found a way to extend his life without the chains and he’s learned to stay behind the scenes, never drawing too much attention to himself.

It seems that many of the remaining necromancers have grown even more cruel, cunning and greedy with time. Balthazar though has gained something special – wisdom. I love this about him. I love seeing his slow metamorphosis from an villainous antimagi to someone who cares about the world and those around him. Even to such a degree that he is willing  to use the chains on himself to save another.

This isn’t 100% unique, but that change is different in the motivations behind it. There is no romantic interest working to “find the good in him”, no road to Damascus moment, no external force working on him to change. It’s a creeping change, so much so that even toward the end of The Necromancer’s Bride I was left wondering exactly where he would end up.

Balthazar isn’t a hero, he’s not an antihero and he moves beyond being a villain. I’m not sure what to call him, but I am so glad I got to meet him in these books.

The good news is that we are going to get more of Balthazar. The next book in the Gaslamp Gothic series is called Dead Ringer, after which Balthazar’s Bane is scheduled. And check out the cover, which was shared by Kat Ross for this blog post!

If you were going to make a list of complicated, mature characters who would you put on that list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Your comment will enter you to win a Kindle copy of A Bad Breed (Gaslamp Gothic Book 3) by Kat Ross read my review. One entry per person/account, international as long as you can receive a kindle code, ends Oct. 31st, 2019.

“Balthazar wasn’t entirely sure why he stayed, only that he was waiting for something. It was the same feeling one had on a hot summer night when the air grew heavy and charges. The primitive brain knew a storm was brewing long before the first thunderheads appeared on the horizon.

This did not trouble him – quite the reverse. He thrived on his little war against the Duzakh. Killing his former brethren was the only thing that gave him pleasure anymore.

Let them come.

-Excerpt from The Necromancer’s Bride

The Memory Thief: Book Blitz

The Memory Thief
by Lauren Mansy
Published by: Blink
Publication date: October 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Meet A New Book

Synopsis:

In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.

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The Necromancer’s Bride: Book Blitz

The Necromancer’s Bride CoverThe Necromancer’s Bride (Gaslamp Gothic, #4)
by Kat Ross
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: May 31st 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Retelling

Meet A New Book

I’m currently reading this book and oh wow, I’m loving it! If the cover isn’t mood enough for you the book make you feel the heat of a Bermudan afternoon and the drizzle of a London rain. Kat Ross, as always, delivers a tale that I can hardly put down (drat real life responsibilities.) I cannot wait to finish this one!

Synopsis:

Forgiveness is not Gabriel D’Ange’s strong suit.

A self-appointed soldier of God with a penchant for ruthlessly punishing his enemies, he vanished after Anne Lawrence stabbed him with his own dagger.

The smart thing would be to let him go.

Unfortunately, Anne’s life isn’t just lonely without Gabriel. It’s insufferably boring.

Determined to heal the rift between them, she goes in search of her tempestuous former lover, black parasol in hand and daeva magic crackling at her fingertips. But Gabriel has his own plans afoot and Anne finds herself drawn into one of his tangled webs, much against her better judgment.

Gabriel’s nemesis has reappeared in Brussels, a vile slaver who’s plundering the Congo Free State with the blessing of King Leopold. Gabriel might be willing to give Anne a second chance, but not until Jorin Bekker’s head is lying at his feet.

Back in London, the quasi-reformed necromancer Balthazar sets his sights on the same quarry. He holds a very personal grudge against Bekker — and killing him might be the only way to keep Gabriel D’Ange from Balthazar’s own throat.

When the hunters collide at a lavish gala thrown by the king, Anne learns just how far she’ll go to save the man she loves.

Note: The Necromancer’s Bride is the sequel to A Bad Breed (read my review), which should be read first.

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Angst: Review

Angst
by David J. Pedersen
378 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
Release date: April 5th 2012

LoBook Reviews - Loved Itved It

Synopsis:

When Angst turned 40, he knew it was over. Angst had longed to be a knight of Unsel, to make his mark in history, to be remembered for heroic deeds and wondrous acts. He grew up knowing he was destined for something great, but now it is too late. Not only is 40 far too old to become a knight, Angst is one of the few able to wield “the magics.” For 2,000 years magic has been outlawed, repressed, even outright destroyed throughout the world of Ehrde.

By law, Angst is reduced to using his great power only to file papers. His marriage is on the rocks, his friends are bored with him, and he hates his job.

The one person that makes him happy is the young Princess Victoria who seems to adore him. Unfortunately, that makes his boss, the Queen, hate him.

Without warning, Unsel is besieged with dangerous monsters – birds with metallic beaks, monkey creatures that can dive through solid ground, mindless horse-eating giants. The world that shunned magic now turns to Angst for help, and he is happy to listen once his back stops hurting.

On the edge of a mid-life crisis, Angst drags his reluctant friends along with him on an adventure into the heart of magic. He’s not sure where they’re going, what they’ll find, or even if they’ll survive. But he knows this is his one chance to be a hero because the only way to fight magic is with magic.

Review:

  • Note I received this book from the author as a gift, because he enjoyed my review of his other book Clod Makes a Friend so much. Which makes me smile every time I think about it. 😊

Ah 40… while it’s not what it used to be, I like to think the hill has moved to 50, but it represents a milestone most of us aren’t looking forward to. In fact…

I TURN 40 THIS FALL! 😲

So I figure it was the perfect time to read this book.

Angst is an unusual hero in an unusual story.  I read quite a bit of fantasy and have never come across anything like it. Angst is like the Dilbert of the fantasy world. Except he is a Dilbert with dreams of being a knight.

Often fantasy stories feature a self-assured hero, or a chosen one, or someone  who is still learning the ropes, pretty much all of these hero-types are given quests that have pretty clear goals. Frodo must take the ring to Mordor. Roland has to reach the Dark Tower.  Matthias needs to protect Redwall. Thomas needs to solve the maze. Alina has to defeat the Darkling. That sort of thing. In Angst David threw all of those norms aside to create a self assured (sometimes) man on a quest to do (something) he doesn’t really know what. The end goal of the quest being somewhat in flux drives his friends nuts. It was a fun twist on the fantasy quest troupe.

The world building is unique too. Unsel is a place both familiar and new to fantasy readers. It has it’s castles, knights, giants, magic etc. But so many new things were added… I wish I could tell you about them all but that would be spoiling it. I want you to go into the story and be as pleasantly surprised as I was at each new element.

I loved this book (though probably not as much as I loved Clod.) As one reviewer on Goodeads put it, “Angst isn’t a breath of fresh air, it’s a whole gust,” Dusty Craine. I absolutely agree.

Bottom Line:

The perfect read for someone just about to turn 40, or who recently turned 40, or just wants to read something with a character going through a mid-life crisis and contemporary fiction isn’t your thing. Angst is a funny and quick witted fantasy romp.

Goodreads / Amazon