Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The War Eternal #1

Along the Razor's Edge

Rate this book
No one escapes the Pit.

At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.

An emotional roller coaster in this unique coming of age story. Perfect for fans of Patrick Rothfuss and Mark Lawrence, be one of the first dive into Award-Winning Author Rob J. Hayes’ new epic fantasy world.

What Reviewers are saying:

"One of Self Publishing's rising stars." - Mark Lawrence, author of Red Sister

“Along the Razor’s Edge will make you mad. It will make you hold your breath, pump your fist, pause and reflect, and swear at 2am. It will do all these things and more, because it is one hell of a great story. For me, it was more than just reading a book. It was an experience.” – Fantasy Book Review

“Rob Hayes is a master of fantasy. He has a unique vision, brilliant ideas, and the finesse to make it captivating. Furthermore, this is one of those stories that will sink into your skin, and stay there for a while.” – Bookworm Blues

Buy Along the Razor's Edge today and dive into a world of magic, monsters, and adventure.

281 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 30, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Rob J. Hayes

34 books1,321 followers
Winner of Mark Lawrence's 3rd Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) with Where Loyalties Lie

Rob J. Hayes has been a student, a banker, a marine research assistant, a chef, and a keyboard monkey more times than he cares to count. But eventually his love of fantasy and reading drew him to the life of a writer. He’s the author of the Amazon Best Selling The Heresy Within, the SPFBO-winning piratical swashbuckler Where Loyalties Lie, and the critically acclaimed Never Die.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
592 (28%)
4 stars
832 (39%)
3 stars
487 (23%)
2 stars
132 (6%)
1 star
57 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 356 reviews
Profile Image for Holly (Holly Hearts Books).
366 reviews3,033 followers
April 3, 2020
"If there's one thing you remember from my story, one lesson you take from it, let it be this: Gods are fucking arseholes. All of them."

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Rob J Hayes’s writing was some of the most fluid string of words that’s ever graced my eyeballs?

Most of the story is being told to us from the main character. Retelling what happened while she was in The Pit. A brutal prison deep underground where inmates (also known as scabs) reside in the dark, mining tunnels, being tortured, eating gruel, and daydreaming about seeing sunlight once again.

I’ve never read a book where I felt like I was truly there with these characters suffering this nightmare. I felt the texture of the rock under my feet. The pangs of the pickaxe in my hands. Hayes has created an environment like no other and that is one hell of a feat for a novel under 300 pages. Even more impressive how fast it flew by. The pace reminded me of Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint.

This book almost feels like the introductory to a villains story. Like this is how villains are made. ESKA THE MAIN CHARACTER. A 15 year old very foolish girl. She will risk anything and everything for what she wants. You can feel the anger radiating off the pages as she speaks and as your reading the story, Haye’s lays out little breadcrumbs of backstory of her life before The Pit. How she was stripped of magic. Why she’s so angry. Her training at the Academy of Magic.

I aso want to make it clear that this book is bloody. It has artfully crafted, believable characters. It has relationships which feel real. Fraught, sweet, complicated, unpleasant, all of the above but real. It has a vividly imagined world which blends the strange and the familiar in order to make something new, something that evokes the thrill of discovery as much as it does a justified fear of the unknown. The unknown being the dark, the abyss, The Pit.

4.5/5 stars
Profile Image for Hamad.
989 reviews1,301 followers
February 15, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“Are we all just monsters waiting for the opportunity to show it?”

Late in 2018, I saw the cover of Never Die on Twitter as the author wanted some readers for the ARC, I did not know who the author is, what is the book about, I just had a feeling that I would love it and I did. It ended up being my last five stars book of 2018. Last month, when Rob was asking again for people to read the ARC of this book, I jumped again for the opportunity and to be honest, I knew it will be different from Never Die but I did not know it will be as awesome as that one!

This book has a unique story line, I think that I like how it is not stereotypical and it actually is unlike anything I read before. The story starts with the MC’s (Eskara) country losing the war to the country of the enemies. Because she is a powerful sourcerer, they send her to the pit, a very deep prison underground that the most dangerous criminals are sent to. She is trying to survive there by making friendships and enemies of the other prisoners.

The writing is great! I have to mention that my taste changed a lot from late 2018 to now but I still freaking loved the writing. It was very simple to follow and read! I highlighted a shit ton of quotes and it was like that Rob said “Let’s cut the crap and get down to business”. Some of my friends always ask me where is a good place to start adult fantasy because these are usually thick tomes. I think Rob books are a great place to start because they are very accessible, very entertaining without being intimidating! The book is told in first person POV (Eskara telling the story) and we have one main timeline and some flashbacks -to know the backstories of Eskara and Josef- and some future facts that were casually thrown and made me very curious (WTF Rob, you can’t do that!!)

“The young and innocent are usually the first casualties of any conflict. Though I was already far from innocent.”

The characters were very well written and I cared about all of them, they were real fleshed out people for me! Eskara will be a very memorable character for me because although she is young, she has gone through a lot and that made her what she is today. She is 16 years old and she did a lot of mistakes and stupid things (which she actually confess while telling the story and that made me very happy!), and she also confess to being a hormonal teenager at some point and that was great!

The secondary characters were also characters that I cared about: Josef, Hardt, Isen, Tamura, Yorin and Even Prig and Deku were characters that had my interest and when I finished the book, I wanted to know what happens to all of them. I should mention that the monster on the cover is called Ssserakis and I don’t know if I ever read a name cooler than that one!

There is one aspect that shined through the book and it is the psychological one. Being in Eskara’s head made me care more for her. The physical and psychological torture she goes through were things that I almost felt when she told us about them. The interactions between all different characters made much sense to me and within the settings we have, it was very realistic.

“Killing should never be easy, nor handed out indiscriminately. A person’s life is a one-time thing. No one should take that away without good reason.”

Speaking of settings, let me tell you a bit about the world-building. We start the book getting to know the pit and it really is an awful place, the book was atmospheric and it succeeded in transferring me to that pit. The flashbacks give us some info about the magic school the MC attended and about the magic system itself. I like the system because it was simple but very smart. It reminded me of Sanderson’s allomancy system because to use magic you have to swallow sources (There are 20 of those with different kind of powers) and if you are compatible then you get to use them for a limited time before they start consuming you. I am not going to explain more because exploring the system was one of the enjoyable parts of reading the book.

Summary: Another awesome and surprising read by Rob Hayes. The book delivered awesome writing, characters, world-building and plot in less than 300 pages and that is mind-blowing! I recommend this for all grimdark fantasy fans and those who want shorter books. I already have written a summary of the book in preparation of book 2!!

“Unpredictable to your enemies is good. Unpredictable to your friends is bad. Hard to catch a person when you don’t know which way she’ll jump.”

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
358 reviews319 followers
March 30, 2020
I've been reading Rob J. Hayes' books for a couple of years now. Whether it was his Ties That Bind series, Best Laid Plans series, It Takes a Thief series, or his stand-alone gems like City of Kings and Never Die, there seems to be one consistent theme. I pretty much universally enjoy everything he writes, which is a testament to how talented he is as a storyteller. So when I heard that he was releasing a brand new series called The War Eternal, and that the entire series will be published in 2020, well I couldn't contain my excitement. Rob was gracious enough to provide me with an advance copy of the first book in the series, ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE in exchange for an honest review. So here goes...

Eskara Helsene has endured more pain and misery in her young life than most her age. Not too long after she learned to walk, she was trained in the art of Sourcery by the Orran Empire to use as a lethal weapon in its war against the hated Terrelans. Eskara learned almost too well the dark skills of Sourcery, most-notably a brand called impomancy that brings with it the ability to summon murderous monsters from the Other World. No child her age should have been educated in dark arts such as these. Yet the Orrans selfishly use her budding talent as a mere tool to try and defeat the enemy. The one thing that the Orran Empire didn't count on however, was losing that war that they had so arrogantly waged.

The story then fast forwards to Eskara, now a girl of 15, having been imprisoned and put to work in The Pit along with the many Orran prisoners of war captured by the Terrelans following their sweeping victory. Cut off from her Sourcery, Eskara now toils every day digging 20 levels deep within this subterranean prison carved from the rocky landscape. She's been underground for so long that she has almost forgotten what the sun and sky look like and all hope of escape seems a dismal pipe dream. It also doesn't help that The Pit foreman Prig is a cruel bastard who takes the utmost pleasure in dispensing the most painful punishments imaginable for any scab who gets out of line or crosses him.

During the time that Eskara has been imprisoned, whispers of hideous creatures located within some of the deepest levels and passages have been spoken about among the prisoners in The Pit. Many believe that the digging that they have been tasked with doing every day is just pointless menial labor that is solely meant to break their spirit and will. Yet there is also a small segment who think there is a specific reason for why they are digging. When the Overseer of The Pit takes a special interest in Eskara, she immediately wonders what the motives behind it are. Could her past history as a Sourcerer have anything to do with it?

Eskara isn't really interested in helping her oppressors and when she feels a breath of wind against her cheek one day while standing in a certain area of The Pit, she sees this as the only opportunity to possibly escape her situation. For where there is wind, there is air, and where there is air, there may be a crack, and where there is a crack there could be a WAY OUT.....

Yep, this book had me from the opening pages and just continued to keep me fixated throughout. There are a number of things that made ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE an amazing read for me. First, the way the story is relayed is absolutely brilliant. The main character Eskara is the narrator of the story, but it is obvious that she is doing so as an older woman. So you know going in that whatever takes place, she has survived and lived to tell the tale. This didn't take away from my enjoyment though because there is still that mystery of what Eskara has become. Who is the woman now telling the story of her past life?

Also, there are a number of flashbacks to Eskara's childhood and her intense training as a Sourcerer. By the way, that spelling is intentional as the magic system involves the person using a "Source" material that is ingested to manifest whatever power they wish to unleash. It's actually a very interesting and cool vehicle through which to dispense magic. It's also a form of magic that requires that the Source be immediately purged from the body if the user is not sufficiently attuned to it, or else risk a horrible and excruciating death.

Now let's get to the world-building which is where I believe this story really excels. I love books like this where there is a captivating fantasy story but also an inherent mystery at its core. There are a lot of questions that arise about the purpose of The Pit. Are there really creatures lurking within its depths? What is outside The Pit and is their a way to escape? Why is The Overseer interested in Eskara? I mean, I kept turning the pages wanting (no, needing!) to know the answers to all of these questions. The world that Eskara finds herself in is a total mystery and Rob Hayes does an excellent job of keeping the reader invested in what is going on based on that extreme desire to find out what the heck is the meaning behind it all?! He feeds you a little at a time and then lowers the boom in the final few chapters.

I just want to finish up by saying if you love great fantasy, then you should be reading Rob J. Hayes because he is one of the best in the business. ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE is just a continuation in a long string of wonderful successes. It intrigued me the way that very few books can. The guy is just a master talent that I can't say enough good things about. So pick up this book as soon as it becomes available on March 30th and enjoy some awesome storytelling.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
343 reviews1,309 followers
December 17, 2022
Absolutely blitzed through this. Such an engaging book that is so easy to read. Rob J. Hayes has a fantastic authorial voice that feels so sharp, bringing the story and narration to life. And on top of that, he subverts your expectations. This is not your bog standard fantasy tale. I thought I knew where this would be going... but then it went in a totally different direction and that just added to the engagement for me.

If you have any suspicions or doubt the quality of self-published/indie fantasy books, I urge you to try the works of Rob J. Hayes. Written so such a high quality, with fresh ideas, great characters, and very smooth prose.

Full Review to Come
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,263 reviews202 followers
February 14, 2020

Along the Razor’s Edge, a darkly engrossing opening of Hayes’ The War Eternal series, sets the tone for the entire novel in the first few pages. It likely won’t be for everyone: it’s bleak, brutal, and focused on the loathsome, self-centered protagonist. If you stick with it—and you should—Along the Razor’s Edge offers smart, streamlined storytelling, and no shortage of genuinely thrilling moments.

It’s hard to describe the plot of the novel without giving away too many of the story’s twists and turns. Eskara Helsene, a powerful Sourcerer lost a war. Her enemies sent her to the Pit, a prison sunk deep into the earth. Stripped of her magic, surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse, she needs to find allies, and play the inmates against each other. Her rage, never far from the surface, rarely decreases. Eska has zero problems with using people, both friends and foes. 

Because Eska narrates the story as an older woman, we expect her to make it out of the Pit alive. Not only does she recount her time in prison, but she also teases readers about events yet to come. Such teasing can build suspense. I expect some readers will love it. I didn’t. I found it irking and tiring. Used once or twice it would get the job done, but we get bits of “foretelling” in almost every single chapter. Way too often for me.

Eska is a memorable (if two-dimensional) character, but she’s too over-the-top to feel real. Plus, I didn’t like her. Secondary characters? I barely remember them at all. Bad guys and bad things that happen to everyone in the Pit were rather predictable. 

It doesn’t mean Hays didn’t surprise me. Quite the opposite. He’s an excellent storyteller who knows his craft. I appreciate the novel’s structure, focus, and Eska’s distinct tone. While not perfect, it definitely made me interested in the sequels.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 18 books419 followers
January 9, 2020

So I edited this book and it was... well, it was AMAZING. Far different than whatever I'd been expecting. The world is dark, and our protagonist and secondary characters are just as dark and brutal as the world they inhabit. The plot is relentless and unforgiving. Hayes starts things out with a bang, and he doesn't let up. Everything in this book is supposed to be there, from all the aspects of the world, to the conflicts, character development and more. I never felt like there was a wasted word in the entire book.

I really want to touch on some things, especially the worldbuilding, but first, I need to take a brief detour.

I love editing, for a whole bunch of reasons, but two of the main reasons are:

1. I selfishly love to read amazing books before just about anyone else does, and I love seeing how they evolve.
2. I learn something from everyone I edit for.

This last point is important because Hayes has measured everything in this book perfectly, from developments, to revelations, to conflicts, to the widening world itself, and he makes it look so effortless. It's impossible *not* to learn from him, because it's just so perfectly planned and executed. There's a lot of emotion here, a lot of love and hate, a lot of intensity, and a whole lot of darkness, but he somehow manages to balance all that with a sense of exploration and determination that makes all this feel like its an adventure.

And, getting back to point two, I learned SO MUCH from Hayes, not just regarding all stuff I've already mentioned, but THE WORLDBUILDING IS SO FREAKING AMAZING I CANNOT EVEN HANDLE HOW AWESOME IT IS. It's not just that he's created this incredible world, but he so subtly reveals the layers of it. It's not all in-your-face, but just a slow unfolding, and a subtle broadening of scope that really works for me. Before you know it, the world is just HUGE and there are things in, and cultures, and religions, and it's all just THERE like it's been there all along. The fact that he's managed to create this amazing setting, but he does it in a way that just feels natural, really needs to be admired.

Rob Hayes is a master of fantasy. He has a unique vision, brilliant ideas, and the finesse to make it captivating. Furthermore, this is one of those stories that will sink into your skin, and stay there for a while.

This book has been delayed for release, but I wanted to put my two cents out there, and maybe help get this sucker on the map for some people. It should be on your list of Must Read books. It's different than his other stuff, but it's really resonated with me. I think it will make a huge, absolutely massive tsunami of a splash in the speculative fiction genre. This entire trilogy is really something special, and, quite honestly, I'm pretty honored that I got to edit it.
Profile Image for Dominic.
167 reviews320 followers
November 16, 2022
I picked up Along the Razor’s Edge because it was a freebie on the Audible catalogue, and I’m really pleased that I decided to give it a whirl because I absolutely loved it. I adored our main character, Eska, I thought that she was a breath of fresh air really—although maybe you wouldn't call her a breath of fresh air because she is absolutely foul-mouthed. But I really loved that, it really worked for me and I didn’t feel it was overdone at all.

The bad language in here I think really set the scene and really suited the situation and the character. The audiobook was absolutely superb as well, delivered with such natural gusto that I felt I was listening to the character, rather than a voice actor, so that definitely elevated my enjoyment of it overall.
1 review
April 21, 2020
Good in theory, real bad in the execution

Have you ever sat through a bad movie while thinking “Hold on, maybe it’ll get better. Let’s give it 5 more minutes,” before getting to the end of the movie and realizing that you’ve just wasted 2 hours of your life? Well this is the book equivalent of that feeling. The author teases you with potential. The main character’s future self narrates the book. You can tell that she’s supposed to be some badass warrior/mage who regularly performs superhuman feats. She’s telling the story of her beginnings. Unfortunately, her younger self is awful. She has no skills. Literally, in the entire book, she demonstrates no useful skills. Is she smart and manipulative? Nope. Can she fight? Nope. Does she have master thief pickpocketing skills? Nope. What does she do throughout the book you ask? Well she’s stupid and reckless. Literally, that’s it. The whole book is just her failing at impulse control. As an origin story, you spend the whole book hoping that she’ll pick up a useful skill or find someone who will give her some kind of training. Yet the book is full of let down moments. For instance, she meets a new character that’s a wise old man who’s surprisingly strong and that says really insightful things whilst pretending to be crazy. What an interesting character! You wonder if he’s about to teach her how to fight, or how to steal things, or to use some forgotten ancient magic? Nope to all of that - they’re just going to hang out for a bit. There are no news skills learned here. She offers literally nothing to the plot. It’s all driven by deus ex machina. A couple examples...(1) How is she gonna survive this hellhole? Well the warden kinda halfheartedly wants to recruit her for a job, so he offers her long term protection despite her constant refusals. (2) She needs rope, where is she going to find rope? Well, surprise, this one random dude has extra rope and also has a gambling addiction. Luckily for her, she happens to win the bet to get the rope despite the fact that she has an awful track record at gambling and has repeatedly stated that she has zero gambling skills. My final complaint is that none of the characters are likeable. The main character’s primary emotion is hatred. She hates everyone and everything. They’re all stupid or evil or cowardly. She’s genuinely the worst. At one point, her future self literally says, “thinking back on it, I realize I was acting like a total bitch.” Furthermore, she comes off as dumb. The side characters keep trying to give her advice like “Hey, maybe don’t purposefully antagonize that torturer guy. I feel like if you make him mad he’ll torture you again like the last 128 prior times. Keep your head down for a minute.” Her response: “Screw that! He looked at me funny.” Over and over the character says something to the effect of: “So and So tried to give me good advice, but I’m not about that life. Listening is for suckers.”

Long story short, if you want to read a book about a girl who constantly waxes poetic about how awful everything is, a girl who literally hates everything and everyone, a girl who starts off the book with no skills or talents and ends the book with no skills or talents, then this is the book for you!!!
Profile Image for Adam.
365 reviews160 followers
January 27, 2020
"Are we all just monsters waiting for the opportunity to show it?"

This book is going to make you mad. And that’s a good thing.

Meet Eskara Helsene. Ripped from her family as a toddler, educated through torture, conscripted for war, and forced to murder, all before the age of fifteen. And then the real horrors begin. Because Eska becomes a prisoner of war when her kingdom ends up on the losing side of a battle, and so is sent into The Pit, an underground mining prison, buried under thousands of feet of rock. And that’s where our story begins.

"There is pleasure in being numb, in retreating from the world and feeling nothing. It is matched only by the agony of emotion returning."

Eska is a fighter that doesn’t break and won’t quit. This is one of her best assets, but also her most frustrating. She’s been pushed around and hurt for her entire life, so she fights tooth and nail for every inch she can, regardless of whatever odds are stacked against her. But her anger and hatred at the world, and herself, lands her in worse and worse situations. She is prideful, and she is a teenager, and she doesn’t think logically. She is filled with so much rage and seething fury that she will avoid the easy path so as not to show her opponents any sign of weakness. As a reader, it is terribly frustrating. But it is also brilliantly written, as you see the world through her perspective and can understand, if not agree, why she continues her path of troubling decisions.

In another author’s hands, I might have found Eska’s story too grim or too maddening to finish. But Hayes has pulled out all the stops and has created something truly magnificent with this story; I’m a fan of much of his previous work and I can say without hesitation that this is his best book to date.

Why do I think so? Let’s get into it.

"We cling to things, familiar things, not because they are good for us, but because we are scared that the unknown might be worse."

The story structure is set up similarly to Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, in that Eska is an older woman, narrating the story of her youth. We know that Eska survives and overcomes the harrowing tests she faces, but Hayes takes advantage of choosing this type of storytelling because he’s able to pull off quite a few tricks. First, he can have Eska tell about her life in The Pit, but he can also intercut that part of her life with her early years of how she grew up and came to be one of the most powerful Sourcerers in her kingdom. As the book progresses, Hayes ties the lessons learned from Eska’s schooling and human interactions with how she deals with her current state of affairs in the prison. As a result, we gain a better sense of where she is coming from, and why she does the things she does.

"I have always found it strange that people equate having testicles with courage. Threatening a man's balls is often the fastest way to make him cower."

But even more thrilling is the egregious tantalizing that Hayes instills throughout the story. Since Eska is an old woman, she’ll occasionally drop hints of how things will turn out, long before they happen. And there are some jaw-dropping reveals that are snuck in there every chapter or two. For example—and this isn’t real, but it’s of a similar delivery—Eska would narrate, “That morning I was more exhausted than I’ve ever felt… but not as tired as the time I invented time travel with the Mongoose King while doing the Thriller dance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.” Wait, whaaa---?? There are many, many needle-scratch moments that allude to some incredible events down the road. Some happen in this book, but others are only foreshadowed and hopefully addressed in books two and three. There are so many explosive reveals that I don’t know how Hayes is going to pull all these promised story threads together over the next two books, but if he somehow addresses them all, well… color me excited. And all these tidbits and reveals, with a brilliantly written lead and an engaging story overall, show that this is a book that demands to be read in as few sessions as possible.

"Lust is a flame that burns everything it comes in contact with. It consumes until there is nothing left to feed it, and then all that's left behind is ashes and scars on all those it touched."

There are so many aspects of this story that impressed me: fascinating, believable, and deeply flawed characters; a versatile style of storytelling that allows the author to reveal both the past and future to strengthen the present; quotable wisdom and insights that stand on their own; one of the most powerful narrative voices this side of Tomas Piety; a slow-burn method of world-building that reveals unexpected depth; and a white-hot desire to discover what will happen next.

Along the Razor’s Edge will make you mad. It will make you hold your breath, pump your fist, pause and reflect, and swear at 2am. It will do all these things and more, because it is one hell of a great story. For me, it was more than just reading a book. It was an experience.

9.5 / 10

ARC via NetGalley
Profile Image for Emma.
2,392 reviews820 followers
April 19, 2020
This was good! Lots of action and a fierce protagonist, an interesting cast of characters, great world building and a unique magic system. I didn’t really like the foreshadowing voice, telling of future events- I found it bumped me out of the story, hence missing one star. Otherwise a fabulous read and I’m hoping to learn more about the world it takes place in.
Profile Image for Derf H.
32 reviews41 followers
April 22, 2020
Outstanding!!! There was something uniquely fresh about this book and I can’t put my finger on it! I really liked the story telling and the world building, can’t wait to start to second book.
Profile Image for L.L. MacRae.
Author 7 books327 followers
December 6, 2022
“I am the weapon.”

This is the fifth book of Rob J. Hayes that I’ve read (The Century Blade, Never Die, Pawn’s Gambit and Spirits of Vengeance all read earlier this year), and again I’ve stuck with audio. Like the previous audiobooks, this one was brilliantly narrated and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, with excellent voices and emotion.

Writing-wise, it almost feels like a step up from the Mortal Techniques series, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s almost to be expected with an author of Hayes’ calibre that the book is extremely well-written, with a cast of distinct characters and incredibly strong world building, and it doesn’t disappoint.

I neeeeeed to know more about the sources, the otherworld, and the creatures that dwell there. It’s where the creativity really shines, and I could dive deep into lore books about the magic, what the sources are and where they come from, the 22 varieties (or are there more, I wonder?), and the near limitless abilities!

I found it absolutely fascinating, and have never come across something like this before - a magic system where those attuned to sources of magic (they are like marbles, though some are bigger) swallow them down and are then able to use said magic. Equally, the sheer, devastating consequences of this use (it WILL kill you, it’s just a matter of how quickly) is incredibly visceral. Use all-powerful magic but have to vomit it up every evening lest you fall asleep with it inside you and it kills you? You do have to think about whether it is worth using, and weigh up the risks.

The sorcery training for Eska, the main character, as a child was brutal. Taken away from her family and her small village to train in an academy and fight in a war she’d not even been aware of, then to be on the losing side, forced to surrender (she sees it as betrayal), and imprisoned in the Pit at just fifteen years old is a harrowing tale. Most of the book is spent with Eska and a handful of those around her as she attempts to escape this hell-hole. Also, the allies she makes aren’t all human, which is incredibly exciting and creepy.

Due to these events, Eska has one real mood that is all-encompassing: unyielding rage. She is angry. All of the time. At everyone. Everything. There is a bit of lust thrown in due to teenage hormones, but mostly she is angry at the world and desperate to escape the Pit.

As you can imagine, a Pit deep underground where you’re forced to dig, the “guards” will beat you (or kill you if they choose), where you cannot clean yourself, there is not enough food to go around, and clothing is little more than rags, is likely to beat the defiance out of anyone. Eska, however, refuses to follow the rules.

It is great to see her standing up for herself and against things she disagrees with, however she refuses to listen even to friends and allies. It is equal parts entertaining and infuriating, and she seems to constantly ruin lives around her because of this deep-seated stubbornness, inability to learn, and unwillingness to let go of her rage.

For me, it made her quite unlikeable and difficult to root for. Every time she seemed to make progress, she would slip back again into her old ways, making foolish decisions - sometimes with permanent consequences. Despite this, especially in the latter half of the book, more emotions come through - like regret. They help humanise her somewhat, which helps show that she’s more than a stereotype - she’s an extremely flawed person.

There are also a few structural choices here that won’t click with everyone, but if it’s your jam, you’ll love it. Other than being told in first person, it is also somewhat anecdotal, with a future version of Eska telling us what happened earlier in her life. It’s nice in one way, because every time she makes a stupid decision, she kind of echoes how young and inexperienced she was back then, which gives us hope for the future. However, it does somewhat rob most of the stakes and sense of fear/danger, because we know no matter how dark and terrible things get, she’s going to survive.

I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of this style, and would have preferred just to read it as things happened in the horrific Pit she’s been thrown in. However, I really loved when she spoke about her past - about her life training to be a sorcerer before she ended up imprisoned, and enjoyed those parts of the story the most.

However, that being said, clearly the person Eska becomes, and the things she does will (I imagine) mean she matures a lot and builds an incredible legacy - beyond that of an angry teenager. I want to discover more about her, more facets to her character and especially learn about what truly drives her. “Straight to anger” type characters can on the surface seem one sided, but very often there is a lot more to them than meets the eye. Whether they’re driven by fear, insecurity, abuse, or something else, it’s always interesting digging into the meat of the character and who they are at their core.

I am curious about where her story goes, and with several books out, there’s no need to wait! Equally, the covers are beyond sensational, which of course hint at what is to come.

This is a much darker tale than I typically like reading, which put me on the back foot a little. I did enjoy the book, and I will almost certainly read the next one on audio (it’s nice to start as you mean to go on), as the narrator was absolutely brilliant.

Recommend if you want gritty, raw, dark tales where characters are forced into desperate situations if they want to survive. Great worldbuilding and a legacy that is strongly hinted at!
Profile Image for Andrews WizardlyReads.
164 reviews287 followers
November 6, 2022

Almost a flawless reading experience! Great action and a magic system with real risk and consequences. The characters are compelling and Intriguing. Eskers is a gritty character without crossing the line into comical darkness.

My only real complaint is the narration style. We are told the story from an older Eskara. Who constantly comments on how dumb in retrospect the decision her younger self has just made is. After the tenth time as a reader it gets old. Otherwise I don’t have any real critiques.
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
570 reviews212 followers
June 28, 2020
Review now live at Grimdark Magazine

“Handshakes are a dangerous business in some parts of the world.” This quote from Along the Razor’s Edge stuck with me, though Hayes meant it in a different light than how it pertains to most of us in this Covidic world right now. Still, it was no less deadly, as it turns out.

Our protagonist in this novel, Eskara Helsene, is quite the anti-heroine. She’s one of the world’s most powerful battle sorcerers, yet as our story gets underway, she’s as helpless as a baby mouse, and not much bigger.

See, Eskara was on the losing side in a great war and through her defeat by treachery, she has lost access to her power Sources and has been cast into the Pit, where thousands of “scabs” toil alongside her in their unending task of digging. Digging deeper and farther, and to what end no one knows.

Of course, it’s not that simple. There are politics and power plays amongst the prisoners. The strong rise to the top of the weak and the downtrodden. Simple things such as food and snuff and favors are bartered and stolen between the prisoners. There is no hope of release or redemption, just the day to day hell underground of digging and surviving.

Until Eska meets a “crazy” old man that has strange ideas and an ear for whistling wind. A plot is hatched, and through the first-person account from Eska herself we see how that all progresses. And more often than not, ends in shit.

Hayes uses a brilliant method of telling Eska’s tale. While we’re set in her first-person narrative at her age of 15 to 16, we are getting constant snippets of her story from other times. Flashbacks to her childhood and training at the Academy, along with her friendship with friend and companion Josef, and their actions during the war give us lots of backstory intrigue to build on.

“It’s just as important to tailor a truth to the audience, as it is a lie.”

We also get a good bit of foreshadowing, where the “old” Eska is throwing little intrigues and hints of what’s to come many years from our main story. It’s clear that Eska is telling this story from a perspective of an older woman looking back at her youth, both her mistakes and her triumphs. She gives us great insight on her own regrets and understanding of how she became what she is in later life. These little hints entice the reader by showing that Eska won’t be in this Pit hell forever, and she has quite the climb to power ahead of her, and perhaps some setbacks along the way. This isn’t a spoiler in the context of her story – it’s obvious she survives the Pit as she’s telling us about it. But these little tidbits give us a real teaser for the next two books in the trilogy.

Along the Razor’s Edge isn’t the first book I’ve read by Rob J. Hayes, and it certainly won’t be the last. Without giving anything away, I will say that this book is satisfying in the fact that it completes a story arc in Eska’s life, but the way Hayes brings it all about makes me want to rush out and get the next one.
Profile Image for Lee Conley.
Author 7 books154 followers
February 27, 2020
A review of
Along the Razor's Edge
Rob J. Hayes

Along the Razor's Edge is the first book of Rob J. Hayes’ new series, The War Eternal. It follows the story of a young girl called Eska. A child Sourcerer (yes, I spelt that right), who fights on the losing side of a great war between empires. She is captured, stripped of her magic and imprisoned deep within an underground prison known as The Pit. A prison mine, full of murders and scum, where they toil their lives away digging, doomed never to see the light of day.

Eska is quite a grim, but badass young woman. Eska burns through her friends as quickly as she does her enemies. A great character, and she just doesn’t know when to quit. I quickly found myself invested in her character, and situation, very quickly.
This book is dark (literally dark, they are underground) and Hayes does a great job of capturing the hopelessness of the subterranean gloom. This book is also violent, the Pit is not a nice or particularly safe place for a young lady – or anybody for that matter. Yet, she meets allies, you could even call them friends at a push, and together they must find some way to survive life in The Pit.

This book is a master class in foreshadowing. Hayes literally tells us major events from the later in the series, perhaps even how it will end, within the first couple of pages. We constantly get drip fed glimpses of Eska’s future exploits as she recounts her youth and time in The Pit. The timeline skips between Eska’s past as a child and trainee at a magic academy to her present day narrative in The Pit.
That reminds me, the magic system of Sourcerers and the sources which Hayes has created here is quite something in itself, refreshingly different, yet brutal to those able to wield it. Liked it!
Despite the choice to reveal those glimpses of the future story, I found myself totally wrapped up in finding out how those mentioned events come about, as I say, a master class in foreshadowing. This book is excellently written, and I particularly enjoyed some of the more creative and colourful language used in this book, some of the curses made me chuckle as I read them.

An excellent and action packed opening novel to his new series. I will be looking forward to continuing Eska’s journey to find out how that foreshadowing works out in the remaining books of The War Eternal series. Check this book out as soon as you can and remember,

No one escapes the Pit!

Thanks for reading,
Lee C. Conley
Profile Image for Cameron Johnston.
Author 16 books436 followers
February 26, 2020
Now that's what I call a cover! Dark and dangerous just like the book inside.

Mysteries, magic and monsters (both human and otherwise) are very much my thing, and Along the Razor’s Edge by Rob J. Hayes delivers all of that in spades and heaps even more on top.

Eskara was trained as a weapon, a young sourcerer using her magic to destroy the enemy. The war was lost and all her power was stripped from her before she was thrown into the Pit, a mine ran by sadistic overseers intended to break its occupants. Depsite the dark, the hunger and the beatings, Eskara refuses to be broken and plots her revenge. She is no passive little mouse waiting to be rescued - she is vicious and merely biding her time to effect an escape.

Most of the book is set within those dark and brutal mines, but there are a number of flashbacks to her training to flesh out the world, the magic, and the mysteries yet to come. The world is an old one, with ancient races, forgotten ruins and secret knowledge, and Eskara is only just beginning to realise how little she truly knows about it.

The way the magic works is deeply cool, and the monsters are creepy and terrifying - I really look forward to seeing how they are used in book two!
Profile Image for Brent.
345 reviews141 followers
December 26, 2022
Two thing I (personally) cannot stand in a story:

1. An actual YA protagonist making irrational choices because her frontal lobes have not fully developed.
2. A tragedy - where it is clearly telegraphed that everything will go sideways and the only suspense is *how* it was all go wrong.

Unfortunately this story has both of those elements and even though the world building is fascinating and I do want to know more, I cannot handle finishing the story with this narrator/MC.

Between the two, the pacing seemed to drag. I looked at my kindle and saw another 50% to go and I couldn't do it.

DNF (but I would be interested in a cliff notes version of the whole story)

No hard feelings, I just have too many books on my TBR pile to slog though something I am not fully engaging with.

It didn't work for me but if you LIKE actual, honest to god YA protagonists this might be a good fit for you.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,228 reviews127 followers
April 3, 2021
The main character in this one - Eska -is eerily similar to me. Ok, I might not be a homicidal maniac when it comes to revenge, but I also haven't been used as a weapon from a young age and then send into "the pit", a mix of prison and mine. And definitely not a happy place...

I loved Eska so very much! She's a no nonsense character who often is way too stubborn for her own good, and will happily take injuries and risks just as to not back down. She's a little ball of sarcasm, rage and pure willpower, and I have rarely related to a character that much! I think the world is better of with me not having magic at my hands!

This books is very character driven. We start with Eska telling her story, so we know all along that there is a life after The Pit, but that didn't take away any of the suspense of the story. I love her tone and voice and most of all her dry and dark humour!

Hayes prose as always is as fluent and easy to follow. It allowed me to get fully sucked into this new world and story within no time at all! I wasn't sitting on the couch reading, I was living, breathing and feeling the story!

The Pit was a dark and very interesting setting to explore, and reminded me a bit of Faithless by Austin-King, even though it went a very different direction. So if you liked that one, I would highly recommend Along the Razor's Edge to you too!
Profile Image for Matias.
38 reviews12 followers
March 31, 2020
Its been a while since I’ve one sitted a book. What a ride.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews215 followers
April 2, 2020
"Grimdark at its finest and filthiest" Review to come
Profile Image for Cassidy Chivers.
183 reviews1,180 followers
January 21, 2023
I can't wait to dive into the next book in this series.

This story really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it.

The story itself is very isolated. We follow our main character who has been put into the pit. The place criminals are out to work and die. As she tries to get out. At time is can be repetitive but what always kept ke turning the page was our protagonist.

Eskara was a powerful mage who is now powerless. She's 15 during this story and man she is a petty little brat. But I adored her. She reminds me of some of my fav characters, Nona from The book of the ancestor and Rin from the poppy war. (Please send me more recs for books with these types of main characters)
She's a badass, holds a grudge and is always ready to seek her vengeance.

Something that held this story back from five stars for me was that it's written in past tense. It is told from Eskara when she's older. I can love a story like this (IE farseer) but it often makes the job of the author harder. I just found I was less in the edge of my seat in intense scenes because I knew some future tid bits. But I will say I'm excited to see a lot of those future things play out down the line!!

I'll be picking up the next book ASAP and highly recommend this one!!!
Profile Image for Taylor.
361 reviews99 followers
July 12, 2021
5 stars.

Honestly if I could, I would give this 10 stars. The emotions I felt reading this book clocking in at less than 300 pages is insane. I felt anger, joy, hatred, sadness, stress, anticipation, and fear in very potent amounts. Our main character, Eskara, is the queen of morally gray protagonists. You want a real Bitch Queen whose actions match her reputation? Look no further.

The style of this book resembles other works like The Name of the Wind in that it is our protagonist as an older person telling the story of their life, but Along the Razor's Edge does this the best I've seen so far. Rather than feel the stakes are lowered because we know our protagonist lives to tell the tale, the teasing hints/glimpses we get of the further events and adventures to come make me even more excited to pick up the next books.
The magic system is also extremely high cost and fascinating. I can't WAIT to find out more about it. I have a feeling it will be expanded upon greatly as our characters grow.
I will be purchasing this book and it's sequels ASAP. I need then in my collection.

I don't usually put quotes in my reviews but I think this particular one sums up this book incredibly well:
"I have long since learned that heroes only exist on the pages of books, and the lips of bards. Out in the world there are only choices. Those choices might appear heroic to some and villainous to others."
Profile Image for S. Naomi Scott.
258 reviews26 followers
March 17, 2020
DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Rob J. Hayes for giving me the chance to read and review this book.

At fifteen years old Eskara Helsene has suffered more pain and torture than most people experience in a full life. Taken from her home at the age of six and trained in the arts of Sourcery by the Orran Empire, she is one of the last Orran Sourcerers alive. The only problem is that she, along with her best friend and fellow Sourcerer Josef, are prisoners of the Terrelan Empire, captured at the end of a war the Orran’s lost and thrown into an inescapable prison known as The Pit. And without the Sources they need to fuel their magical abilities there appears to be no way for them to escape their predicament.

Rob J. Hayes has written and published a fair few books over the last few years, and picked up a few accolades along the way. His 2017 grimdark novel Where Loyalties Lie won that year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), and last year’s wuxia-inspired Never Die is currently a finalist in this year’s competition, so it’s fair to say I had some pretty high expectations for this, the first novel of his latest trilogy. I wasn’t disappointed.

Along the Razor’s Edge is a dark novel, even by Hayes’ normal standards. The main protaginist and central point of view character is a fifteen-year-old girl who’s been spend most of her life being tortured by the tutors of the Orran Academy of Sourcery. She’s been exposed to the horrors of the Otherworld and forced to commit atrocities for her nation in what was ultimately a futile war against the neighbouring Terrelan Empire. And that’s before she gets thrown into the Pit to deal with the daily ministrations of the sadistic foreman Prig and the unnamed Overseer who holds her fate in his hands.

Told in the first person, the narrative switches between the ‘present’ of Eska’s time in the Pit and her past coming up through the Academy, though there are occasional flash-forwards to things in Eska’s future. Right from the start we know that she escapes the Pit, but it’s how she escapes that makes this story compelling, the journey she has to take to win her freedom by the end of the novel. That journey isn’t an easy one, and Eska has to make some hard choices along the way, pushing aside friends and making questionable alliances in order to gain even the smallest advantage. This is a journey into a darkness that’s both literal and metaphorical.

Despite the darkness of the story, this is so well written that it’s hard to put down. Hayes has definitely come a long way as writer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name cropping up on more shortlists in the coming years. He has a way of getting under your skin and making you feel what the characters feel, of almost forcing you to empathise with the protagonists, no matter how unpalatable their actions may be. Even when the protagonist herself is telling you how much of a bad guy she’s been, you still want to forgive her for the things she’s done to get to that place.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re a fan of grimdark then you really need to wrap your eyes around this one when it comes out at the end of the month. I’ve already got the second book on pre-order, and as soon as the third one becomes available I’ll be ordering that as well.
Profile Image for Yuri.
109 reviews73 followers
January 21, 2022
I finished this during my like quarterly insomnia spells. It's 4:56 AM and I'm not even slightly sleepy, but let's get to the book. Eskara is giving us her memoirs and we start our journey with her when she's 15 years old and in hell, not literally, though the pit might as well be. So the main character is stubborn and let's her emotions pretty much rule her, she's looking for a way out of the pit to get revenge on those who put her there.

This book hints at great worldbuilding, though to see more of the world than the pit (or the academy through flashbacks) you'll have to read the sequel. Eskara makes all sorts of dramatic or wild references to her future actions which I must admit grew on me after a while. In the end I'm glad I read it and the trilogy is finished so pick it up.

Edit: apparently there are two more books coming, great news!
Profile Image for Filip.
464 reviews47 followers
February 26, 2020
This review was originally published over at Booknest.eu!
Release Date: March 30, 2020
Published by: Self-Published
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark
Pages: 281
Format: ebook
Review Copy: Provided by the author in return for an honest review.

What Rob J. Hayes has done in Along the Razor’s Edge cements his place as one of the masters of grimdark fantasy.

I’ve taken my time getting to the review of this book, the first of an ambitious new trilogy Rob has decided to release over the next few months of 2020, starting March 31, just a little over a month as of the time of writing of this review. There’s plenty I want to say, and I will begin with this: as soon as I was finished with Razor’s Edge, I was desperate for more. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like great praise to you but keep in mind, only a few fantasy authors in my adulthood have awoken in me the desire to dive into their fictional worlds without so much as a breath of something different in-between – Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Brian McClellan, Steven Erikson.

Eskara Helsene is a Sourcerer of great potential, capable of holding up to five Sourcery stones in her stomach at any one time, she is a deadly trump card for the Orean Empire and a fierce combatant against their Terrelan foe. Or she was, anyway, before the side she fought the war on lost. Now, Eskara is a captive, one of thousands of the foes of the victorious Terrelans stuck in The Pit, a hole in the ground in which the prisoners are forced into performing endless Sisyphean labour every day of their miserable existence. Digging rocks, dragging them out and then digging yet more rocks. “Maybe it was just punishment; never-ending, pointless toil down in the dark. The sure, unwavering knowledge that nothing we did or said meant a damned thing. A punishment worse than death. Irrelevance.” The Pit is made to break people, not just physically but psychologically shatter them as well.

But Eskara will not be broken. Despite betrayal by her closest friend and beatings at the hands of a sadistic foreman at the opening of Razor’s Edge, despite the lack of food and rest and even sunlight, this fifteen-year-old girl refuses to surrender. She draws strength from the daily cruelties perpetrated against her, turns it all into smouldering fury. All-consuming rage is perhaps one of the most sure-fire mechanisms of survival and it serves Eskara well but like the Source inside her belly, it too is poisonous the longer she carries it inside. Do not mistake this for flat characterization. Though Eskara is dominated by fury and pride, her emotions go further; it’s the inability to express them that speaks of a character deeply scarred and emotionally curbed from childhood. What she uses as a crutch is her power: “...I wouldn’t trade my magic for all the meals and sleep in the world. I love the power far too much.” Eskara defines herself through her Sourcery, even in the Pit.

The strongest element in Hayes’ work has to do with character voice; the narrator is none other than Eskara herself – but an older, world-weary Eskara, one for whom the Pit is in the far-off past, though it’s obvious through her narrative that it’s a gangrenous wound that this older Sourcerer has not wholly escaped from. Foreshadowing, done right, can add so much to a work of fiction. Rob does it right, as well as Gene Wolfe in the genre-defying Book of the New Sun. Though these are two very different stories, they share strands of DNA not in voice alone but also in the primal fear of deep, dark places far underneath the surface they both seize. They share, too, well-crafted prose, every word fitting into the greater whole like pieces of a puzzle. So often I come across self-published fantasy works whose occasional smattering of modern parlance comes across as staggering discrepancy, and indeed, I recall even the first of the author’s books I read, City of Kings had the occasional incongruity in this way; not so with Hayes’ latest.

Another strong element of this title is the magical system. A cool, imaginative twist on the schools of magic you might be familiar with, the magic in this world is internally consistent and what I’d call “hard” magic. It’s powered by Source stones the Sourcerer must swallow, each stone with a different magical affinity. There’s plenty more of it than that and suffice to say, I’m excited to see its further complexities reveal themselves.

I would be remiss not to mention the cast of characters. Though I don’t intend on calling each one out, I have to commend Rob for his handling of the dynamics between Eskara and her fellow Sourcerer, Josef. Few in the Pit are what you might call “nice people,” and Eskara is nowhere near as good at making friends as she is at making enemies, but a few allies are nonetheless in the cards for her and the intricacies of their relationships intertwined make for an additional layer of human drama.

The novel is an intelligent work about the costs of perseverance fuelled by the basest human emotions. As thrilling as this first chapter in Eskara’s tale is, it offers caution too. Though anger keeps her alive – that’s no great spoiler, I think, as the older Eskara’s narration is immediately evident – the urge to lash out at those around her costs our protagonist immeasurably much.

Shall we speak of the cover art? Felix Ortiz continues to outdo himself and if you don’t believe me, come back over at booknest.eu tomorrow, because I have a special treat for you – Rob has given me the absolute pleasure of revealing the cover for Along the Razor’s Edge’s sequel, The Lessons Never Learned!

In the end, I am excited – excited to see the world outside the Pit, excited to see Rob follow-up on what is the best example of foreshadowing I’ve come across since Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, excited for more of Eskara beyond all else. This is my Fantasy Read of the Month; I am happy to give it a full score of 10/10. I consider this a grimdark masterpiece, and an early contender for my favourite opening of a series for the year.
Profile Image for Shelli Ingle.
110 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2021
I heard this book from HollyHeartBooks, so I decided to get it after Holly praised about it.

I thought the book was really good and I really enjoyed it. 😆

Story plot is very similar to "Shadow and Bone",but I thought "Shadow and Bone" was okay. "Along the Razor's Edge" is more darker and Gritty than "Shadow and Bone". I really liked the magic school trope had played out for a main character's backstory with her friend (who's a backstabbing a**hole) and shown how the Magic System worked (like I liked that how Ursla did that in Earthsea),because I am not really into Harry Potter and I finds the magic school boring. But The Magic System is wicked cool and it makes me thinks of Alloymancy from "Mistborn".

Thinking of "Mistborn", I thought Haye has writes a way better anti-heroine than Brandon Sanderson had wrote. Eskara isn't like Mary-Sue Vin from "Mistborn" and she would whip her a** (Sorry, Brandon Sanderson fans). I even love two side characters that are brothers and they are also main character Eskara's love interests. I love where the story's going after book one. It looks like she is going to become like Maleficent 😇(oh man, I love that movie. I miss my mom when I remembered I was watching it with her. 😞),because the covers of the next two books.

And the writing style reminds me of Scott Lynch.

I highly recommended to Merphy and everyone to read it. 🥰
Profile Image for Zamil Akhtar.
Author 6 books273 followers
July 6, 2022
Abso-fucking-lutely brilliant. Immersed me thoroughly so much that I forgot the real world existed. I would write more, but I need to read the second book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 356 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.