For reasons unknown Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher has received somewhat limited press in the last few months. I hope to remedy this, because it was without a doubt one of the best debuts I’ve read in quite some time. A really unique twist on a magic system, a couple of trusted bloggers shouting praise, and an intriguing cover prompted me to buy this one at a local bookstore, something I don’t do too often these days.
***Obligatory quick summary: Konnig Furimmer is a High Priest who has plans to create a god. By manipulating a young child named Morgen, he hopes to control the boy’s god-like powers once he ascends into godhood. Ultimately his goal is to take advantage of this god to further his religious order’s influence on the world. The three main characters eventually hatch a plot to kidnap Morgen with hopes of ransoming him back to Konig. Eventually this unruly trio takes hostage the child. In response, Konig unleashes his right hand to fetch the child back at all costs. ***
The unique twist that Fletcher puts on the magic system is inspired by mental illness. He takes some of the better-known mental illnesses and bases his characters around them. Stay with me, I know it sounds strange. Geisteskranken are essentially mages with powers based around a specific mental illness. Pulling from the glossary in the back of the book, “Geisteskranken are capable of believing something so utterly and completely-are insane enough-to effect noticeable changes in reality all by themselves.” Essentially the characters can will something into becoming reality.
I know that I haven’t done this strange magic system or plot any justice. Trust me when I say that it works and it’s pretty fucking cool. The main characters, while initially appearing to be plucked straight from a D&D character list, were very compelling. At the start I was somewhat hesitant because you have a cocky swordsman, a tortured warrior, and a rogue. By the end Fletcher puts just the right amount of spin to make these characters feel both familiar and fresh. One character in particular stole the spotlight for me. Gehirn Schlechtes is a Hassebrand which in Fletcher’s world is a pyromancer. Gehirn is tasked with bringing back Morgen once he’s discovered missing. Imagine a more insecure version of GRRM’s Brienne of Tarth with the ability to turn her enemies into ash with a whisper. She fucking rocks and although she isn’t painted to be a good guy, (woman) I found myself rooting for her throughout the story.
The world building wasn’t the main attraction here. There are brief mentions of former empires, but Fletcher doesn’t overwhelm you with info-dumps, something I felt was appropriate considering the pace of the story. He keeps the plot going, and doesn’t distract the reader with whole pages of fictitious history, which as most fantasy fans know is something of a staple these days. The small glimpses we do get of this twisted world left me wanting more. As another reviewer noted, there is a real Dante’s Inferno vibe going on.
So why should you pick this one up? Well if you’re like me then you’re constantly on the hunt for that next R. Scott Bakker, or Steven Erikson. You want a dark fantasy world for grown ups. You don’t want another Game of Thrones clone; you want something fresh and unique. Look no further, Fletcher has given the middle finger to traditional fantasy, his mental illness concept is proof alone of this. Good shit here, I’ll pre-order book two without a doubt.