Plague has come to the continent of Teringia.
As the Wrack makes its slow, relentless march southwards, it will humble kings and healers, seers and merchants, priests and warriors. Behind, it leaves only screams and suffering, and before it, spreads only fear.
Lothain, the birthplace of the Wrack, desperately tries to hold itself together as the plague burns across it and its neighbors circle like vultures. The Moonsworn healers would fight the Wrack, but must navigate distrust and violence from the peoples of Teringia. Proud Galicanta readies itself for war, as the Sunsworn Empire watches and waits for the Wrack to bring its rival low.
And the Wrack advances, utterly unconcerned with the plans of men.
The Wrack is a really interesting novel by John Bierce, author of the Mage Errant series. The premise of a plague invading a city and the consequences after it, and how the people react was something that really attracted me, and John Bierce delivered all he promised and more.
And well, after a two-year pandemic still ongoing, you would say that The Wrack is inspired by that. And here comes one of the most shocking facts about the novel, it was written in 2019; and it feels kinda terrific how accurate to the development of the pandemic. Part of its shining comes from it, as it is a rather unique novel, as the author defines «epidemiological fantasy».
So let’s talk about the aspects of this book that made me love it. As a book that shares the universe with the Mage Errant, Teringia is amazingly built, and in general, is full of small details that make it feel alive. And this is something that I consider especially important when you are going to unleash a plague over there. The Wrack is unleashed at the start of the book, and we will become spectators of how it spreads around the world.
But we are also contemplating humans, and something we can learn about our current situation is that the world won’t stop because a plague is still spreading. Despite the plague being the main factor during the novel, I feel it is only a way to see how human nature reacts to an extreme situation, and how despite this shocking event, we can observe how the events don’t stop after that. Magistrally, Bierce shows how ambitions and fear overcome common sense, writing a novel that could be defined as a sociological study.
It is true that it might not be the most hooking novel, and that the pace sometimes feels awkward, and it’s probably why I can’t give it a better score, but despite these small inconveniences, I think it’s a really solid work.
In summary, I think The Wrack is a really accurate novel, that reflects how the group reacts to extreme situations. I didn’t know that I needed this kind of «epidemiological fantasy» in my life, but I certainly enjoyed it so much (and some of the details in the book, such as the appendixes are great).
John Bierce is a fantasy novelist, history and science buff, SFF fan, and general all-around dork. He is currently traveling the world as a digital nomad, but spends a lot more time observing the urban ecology of drainage ditches in other countries than visiting glamorous tourist destinations. (Did you know that Southeast Asia has freshwater crabs? Who are apparently fantastic parents, unlike basically every other crab species ever? It’s definitely surprising the first time you see a crab wandering around in a ditch hundreds of miles from the ocean.)