Cedain is destined to collapse.
Across a world rife with blood, betrayal, and brutality, five people wade through unexpected tragedies.
An egotistical student, a fleeing refugee, a nomadic warrior, a fallen noble, and a criminal in hiding navigate the sinister dealings of politicians, two sudden wars, and nefarious lies that surface at Ashmount—a university dedicated to teaching the five branches of magic.
Survival means adapting or dying.
The Trials of Ashmount is the debut grimdark novel from John Palladino, and it starts the Tragedy of Cedain series. And honestly, for me, it marks the start of a promising career, as this book distills talent on each page.
Let’s start talking about worldbuilding, and how Cedain is an extraordinarily diverse world, which is shown through the eyes of the main characters, which is a detail I really appreciate, as it avoids long info-dumping sections. The story goes over three continents and five different countries. There are several interesting locations, which we will know as long as the story progresses.
Ashmount was probably the most interesting for me. This sort of magic school is shown through the eyes of my favourite character, Kelden Stoole, the son of a baker, who starts a journey to Ashmount to get tested and see if he has magical talents. The whole process of admission, the Trials itself, gives a really dark twist to Ashmount, and also helps as an introduction to the hard-magic system that is featured in this book. There are five classes of Magicai (magic practicioners), each one with a different use: Enforcer, Glyphist, Collector, Healer, and Examiner. The interrelation and how each one depends in the other classes is a really interesting twist.
Demri Slarn is a really interesting character, and probably one that will be hated/loved in the same proportion by readers. This sadistic Magicus travels seeking vengeance against an old schoolmate, Domri, leaving a trail of violence in each place he visits. If you could define Demri by one word, it would be self-confidence. With a similar past to Joe Abercrombie’s Glotka, it suffered injuries early in life, and due to that lives in constant pain and agony. Once we learnt more about his past, this character becomes really complex and even we can feel sympathy for him.
A second magic system, a soft one is introduced with the Camel Clans and Villic, the imbuyers. It also helps us to know a different region of the world, and particularly I empathized fastly with Villic, as being a person with problems socializing and who doesn’t feel comfortable with people around, it remembers me of my childhood.
Edelbrock is also an interesting character, a noble who fastly falls in disgrace, and which serves as a way to introduce us to the Buzzard’s Bowl. He stays most of the novel as a pathetic character, but who has one of the best redemption arcs in the whole plot.
Sadly, I think the subplot that I connected less with was the Sera Wintlock one. Despite starting really promising, and all the gyrfalcon stuff and how the city works, it is fastly stopped into a war plot, and Sera just became an archetypal hero. Still, I think the Falcon Knights are interesting, and the whole subplot of the city escape is really good, just I couldn’t get to Sera.
Plot in general is fast-paced, only slowing a bit during interludes, which I think it’s the function they are written for. Some decisions are taken too abruptly, such as the ones leading to wars.
John Palladino really nailed his debut into fantasy, and honestly, I can’t wait to read the second novel of Tragedy of Cedain. A really promising voice in the fantasy field, and a book that I recommend for any grimdark enjoyer, and even for people who likes extensive worlds and charismatic characters.
You’ve stumbled upon somebody who takes nothing seriously, not even author bios. It’d be a good guess to say John Palladino was born in 1988, lives in Avoca, New York, has a bachelor’s degree in business management, and enjoys hibernating at home while writing. He might also lie and say he enjoys pets, long walks on the beach, and his hobbies include happiness and scuba diving. You’d see right through those lies, however, and notice he prefers the simpler things in life—reading, video games, and making ill-timed jokes. John also dislikes taking care of anything that excretes substances.