The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Book Review: The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn. 

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he'll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there's more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.
 


There are a few titles that come out every now and then that catch me by the title. Having been away from the book review for quite some time I actually haven't looked into books that I wanted to read. Being a father of two young kids takes quite the time away from you. Anyway. Titles. They should draw you in and if the title of this book doesn't do it, I dont know what will work for you. Ten Thousand Deaths? I had some bells ringing to The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Besides this recent release Tyler Whitesides is known for his Janitors and The Wishmakers. 

So onto the story and meet Ardor Benn or as his friends like to call him Ard. Self proclaimed best ruse artist in the Greater Chain. Together with his trusted partner Raek, he does his best to get his hand on any Ashing that he can get. Though he prefers to do it the way that upsets most if not all people, by stealing them. The start of the book portrays the above mentioned situation. Ard is doing his best to add something to his Ashing collecion. By having upset a lot of people, Ard and Raek have build up quite the reputation for themselves. And due to this someones attention has fallen upon Ard and Raek. He needs their help to pull of, perhaps, the most ambitious heist that has ever taken place in the Greater Chain. Isle Halavend, need Ardor to steal something of the King himselves. In Isle Halavend's eyes this is the only item that will save the Greater Chain from reaching his down fall. Ard whether entranced by this tough challenge and/or the reasoning of Ilse Halavend accepts. What other would the greatest ruse artist do? This in short is the setup of the story. In general a classic heist. In detail a marvelously, clever plotted and genious story.

The story of Ardor Benn is booming full of wild ideas. Clocking in at a whopping 728 pages (paperback) there is a lot of room to discuss these wild adventures. First world building. Meet a world that is run by Grit. Digested parts; like bone, metal, stone, wood. Which when detonated have specific abilities like giving light, creating a barrier and summoning the occasional Paladin Visitant. Yes digested parts, they went through the digestive system of a dragon. Which brings me to the second part there be dragons. I haven't read a dragon story in a while so this was an exciting part. But in the Greater Chain only the female dragons still live as when King Pethrode took the throne he erased the dragon patriachy. so in short no dragons will be able to hatch as they need males for this. Next there is the part of Wayfarism, a believe in the homeland. Isle Halavend is part of this. This church so to call has a strong influence together with the King. I bet you feel it already it is linked to the plot. 

Going just a bit deeper in the Grit part mentioned above. Grit when used gives the user an advantage. Best to compare this a sort of magic, that most everybody, with the right amount of Ashings can buy. This was a fun system to read about there are quite a few different configurations possible also with the Prolonging Grit. This system in particular felt fresh, similar to that of Brian McClellan in his Powder Mage series and Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. There is a good balance within this system. As there are only a few components that are used and with the wrong configuration you will only have worked yourself in a tight spot. Like the wrong dose or wrong location of Barrier Grit. 

The main lead in this story is Ardor Benn. There isn't a lot that you lean about his backstory upfront. This is told along the lines as the story progresses. When I first started to read about him I imagined him solely to be someone who was just there to have a good time, walking around with a constant smirk on his face and yes I still do think this but I have learned a lot more about Ardor that makes him more than a ruse artist with no conscience. There is a right amount of depth to Ardor, from when he was on his own, running of Pekal amongst the dragons and most important when he became Ardor Benn and gave up the love of his life. there is just one pun that sticks with me Pethredolt. Marvelous. Next there is Raek. He is from the beginning a mystery person, yes we learn that he is a life time friend of Ard but he dissappears and reappears all of the time. There were a few critical parts where I grew really suspicious of Raek to be completely fair, good job Tyler. There is a third edition, the femme fatale Quarrah Khai]. Quarrah is recruited into the band of Ard and Raek to assist. Her small body and being a women will help complete the ruse even better. Quarrahn  also has a rich background that you get to learn as the story progresses, there are some wonderful moments, especially on Pekal that brought here character to life. 

As Ard, Raek and Quarrah make up most the story there is a great cast surrounding them. First and foremost Cinza and Elbrig add a lot of flavour to the story. Their mysterious nature and meticulous planning makes up for some great scenes. Next there is King Pethredote, who took the last throne by force and from who Ard is planning to steal the Royal Regalia. These kind of stories need a great villian and Pethredote does live up this in the fine details. He did came over a bit slug and easy but during the moments where Ard was one on one with him, Pethredote proved to be quite cold and calculated excatly knowing what he wanted to do. There are two characters that made a up a big part of the story but felt a bit flat to be honest. First being Ilse Halavend, he is mostly involved with researching and proving that he is right in his theory does get some time alone for himself. But it does stick mostly to watching behind his back and trying not to upset the Prime Ilse or make him suspicious. And this goes on for quite a bunch. The eventual revelation that Ard was told on the first few pages did make quite a punch though. The second being Tanalin Phor, Ard died for her, figuratively but still, leaving her behind. I would have expected a different reaction when someone gets reinstroduced in your life after you thought they were dead. I have to admit there is a solid backstory to Tanalin and why Ard did what he did. 

There is a lot of good stuff in this book and this might sound cliche but The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn delivers. From start to finish this is an amazing read. The exceution of the story by Tyler Whitesides is spot on. The ending of the story will blow you away even throwing something wild in there in the end with the Paladin Visitant. Which I am yet to wrap my head around fully. It's booming with wild ideas. Curious to see in what trouble Ardor and Co. will get themselves next time. 

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