By: Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my purchase
Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a terrible scar – and a curse of cowardice. Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the blight, and his painful journey leads him down a dangerous path.
I’ve been eyeing this novel for a few years now, ever since I first heard that it was going to be translated into English and Tor released the book cover. It’s a gorgeous cover–one of my favourites ones ever, hands down, and the premise sounded interesting. I finally picked it up (yay!) as I was in the mood for a fantasy and standlone fantasy novels are hard to come by. Really. Contains some spoilers ahead!
The Scar was a very interesting and very unique in a way. The storytelling and the plot reminded me a little bit of Patricia A. McKillip but darker; there were some really disturbing moments in this novel that made me skim over the scenes a little bit but it does add that extra depth of danger and darkness to the story and to the main character’s plight.
Egert kind of reminds me of Tony Stark at the beginning of the novel: he’s arrogant, brash, talented and uncaring. He’s a downright asshole to people too (there’s just no other way to say this) and treats everything like a joke. His encounter with the Wanderer puts his character on quite a journey as the encounter results in him loosing complete confidence in himself and falls under a curse of absolute and crippling cowardice. He struggles over the course of the novel to overcome these feelings of despair, hopelessness and baseness. It’s not a clear-cut development: one minute Egert’s up and the next minute he’s absolutely down. Dean Luayan takes pity on him and brings him in–with his own reasons, of course–and again Egert is set on another stage of his journey towards re-discovery. It’s an interesting journey because my perceptions of him shifted as well; he was really annoying at first but after his encounter with the Wanderer and he really falls deep in his cowardice and lack of self-esteem, self-worth, as a reader you can’t help but feel pity towards him.
It was interesting how the fate of Toria, the fiancee of the man Egert slain (that in turn evoked the Wanderer’s wrath), was strangely interconnected with Egert’s as she too is forced to decide whether to forgive Egert or not, whether she has the capacity to at least consider Egert as another human being despite of everything. In a way her storyline is a lot harder because of this challenge; it’s not always to easy to forgive someone, especially when the person who trespassed committed a grave crime against you and you lost something–or someone–in the process. Yet her own story is a lot more complicated than I first expected and it was interesting to see how she and Egert struggled to overcome some of the feelings that emerged during the first encounter.
The story itself was very interesting in how it tackles themes of death and killing, cowardice and the capacity for bravery and overcoming one’s shortfalls, forgiveness and hope. As events unfold, the story really turns out to be a heck of tragedy amongst all of these characters, that, in a better world and in a different time, would’ve come together under very different circumstances. The larger storyline was also very intriguing, involving prophecies and mages harnessing powers they shouldn’t; it adds an epic slant to the novel but the revelations that emerge also grounds the story in a way that I can’t entirely describe–you’d have to read it for yourself to truly understand. The groups involved reminded me very much of the old religious groups that would harken for the End of the World, complete with their cult-like operations and the overall secrecy. The authors are Ukrainian but I couldn’t help but think about Russian history, especially with the climax and how groups and powers were overturned, public opinion shifting in radical ways. But in the end, the story very much comes down to Egert and Toria’s respective and collected journeys of rediscovery and humanity.
The writing in this novel is gorgeous; there’s a lot of lovely, melancholic lines and paragraphs that run throughout. It’s a very tight, self-contained story but the ending still left enough mysteries outstanding. I don’t mind that they weren’t answered, it enriches the world and keeps an aura of vastness and mystery to it. The world-building is familiar but interesting enough and the narrative enables the reader to fill in the blanks.
The Scar overall was a wonderful read, definitely one of the best I’ve read this year. I highly, highly recommend this novel if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre.