The Sword of Mercy and Wrath (Swords of Dominion #1), by NC Koussis

The Book

The Sword of Mercy and Wrath (2nd Ed)
Series: Swords of Dominion
Pages: 411
Age Group: Adult
Published on 3/20/2023
Publisher: Self-Published
Available on:



In a cathedral at the south of the Istryan Empire, young men and women are trained to be killers. The Order of the Golden Sword’s inquisitors are feared for their brutality masked as piety. Masters of blade and crossbow, their quarry is the god-cursed werewolf, whom they hunt with impunity to herald the return of their god.

Betrayed by her monstrous father, Selene loses her left arm and nearly her life when she’s saved by a traveling inquisitor. Scarred and broken, she swears vengeance on the cursed beasts and joins the Order. It takes all her will to overcome her limits, only for her violent past to drag her back into blood.

With the fabric of the empire at stake, Selene must master her hatred, hone it to a sharp point, then let it loose on her enemies.

The stunning fantasy debut from "One of Australia's most promising young writers."Perfect for fans of Andrzej Sapkowski and Mark Lawrence.

My Review (4.75 out of 5 )

"Her temple and ear wracked with a sharp pain as they slapped against the ground. In a daze, she thought she heard people shouting. She rolled over with a groan. Claws dug into her left arm. Agonizing, blinding pain ripped through her very core"

The Sword of Mercy and Wrath is the initial book of the Swords of Dominion series by the Aussie writer NC Koussis, and it's an excellent grimdark novel, that at the same time does a great job portraying a myth such as the werewolf one in a different kind of light, while creating a huge world which I hope to continue exploring on the next books of the series.

First of all, let me make the clarification that this is a review focused on the rereleased edition of TSoMaW, which includes 150 extra pages. I read the first edition, and liked it; but personally, I think this edition enhances and improves many aspects, bringing the novel to a whole new level, especially diving into the transformation of Selene. 

TSoMaW follows two different stories, alternating the timelines until they met again due to the force of circumstances. And both are at some point faces of the same coin, a coin that surprisingly ends up not being as simple as we could think.

Selene's life is far from ideal, but it definitely gets wrecked after the attack of her monstrous father, which was a werewolf, letting her at the border of death; losing her left arm as a consequence. Scarred and broken, she swears vengeance against those beasts, joining the Order.
I find really interesting and accurate how Koussis portrays the process of the catchment, and how a cult operates to get more adepts that will follow blindly their orders; Selene is the perfect victim, as she's broken, with vengeance as the only remaining feeling on her. She's an easy target to manipulate and radicalize, and the Order plays its cards in order to make her a fanatical, a monster who will follow all its orders blindly. Practically Selene gets dissociated from who she used to be, something signaled by the change of name to Selene.
The newly named Diana quickly escalates in the organization, not without getting attacked by her mates, in brutal ways; but she becomes the perfect Inquisitor, and she doesn't really think about her actions until she has to capture a particular werewolf.

"Demons organize in packs. Such hives of devilry and malice must be rooted out and eliminated with extreme prejudice. -Lord Notarius Gian Adalla"

Tristain acts as a squire for Leon the Strong, serving the imperial army, with the hope he will at some point get enough prestige to retire and live serving as a home guard, and hopefully meet again Selene. But after a traumatic encounter, he discovers that there's a beast inside him; he can transform into a werewolf.
While still serving in a war that seems kinda unproductive, we get to see how Tristain puts his life in danger multiple times, while at some points letting his true nature unleash. But if with Selene we get to see a brutal nature, with Tristain we get to observe how all that the Order says about those creatures might not be true.

"Doubt means death. When the fighting's thickest and you're grasping a sword, knowing that dropping it means a quick end, there's no room for hesitation. When you're stab-stabbing, hands numb, face numb, eyes streaming with sweat"

And the culmination of this story appears when Diana's obligations and Tristain's nature clash, because she's tasked with retrieving a living beast for Citadel's matters. Diana's convictions get challenged, putting her between the sword and the wall; more once part of the truth about Order's acts gets revealed. I don't want to spoil much more, but all the setting done with the two timelines gets a payoff in an explosive ending, letting all ready for a second book.

The world of TSoMaW is dark and brutal, as the grimdark genre dictates. We are direct spectators of violence and atrocities, showing the worst aspects of humanity; the Continent is under war and that shows. The Order is a religious cult that tries to create fanatics, and their process with the novices is the best example of it.
If you look closely, you can see the Greek and European influences in this world, in small details such as names, places, and some of the structures; while we explore just some places, I want to travel to more cities in this world.

Koussis's prose is excellent, shining especially in two kinds of scenes: action scenes, where it becomes especially cinematic and spectacular (watching Diana fighting against werewolves is an absolute delight); and those where we met better the characters, transmitting how they feel perfectly.

This new edition of TSoMaW is what any fan of grimdark could ask for. A brutal world, morally grey characters, and a reality that is more complex than what plain sight could see. Can't wait to see Pyres of Vengeance.

The Author/s

NC Koussis

NC Koussis

NC Koussis was born in Perth in 1993 to Greek and Kamilaroi ancestry. He has moved all around Australia, settling in Newcastle for the moment, where he lives with his wife, son, and staffy dog, Nala. He’s been writing fantasy books since he was a little boy, after falling in love with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. He decided to publish a book in 2019, and it only took him three years. He considers himself an enthusiastic amateur of medieval history, historical battles and tactics, and food. When he’s not writing, he’s making sourdough bread and working on a PhD in neuroscience.