Eleventh Cycle by Kian Ardalan – Blog Tour book review (spoiler free)

Hi everyone, I’m taking part in the blog tour for Eleventh Cycle by Kian Ardalan. I really enjoyed this book – I found it to be imaginative, compelling, dark but also inspiring.

A huge thanks to Escapist Tours for putting this blog tour together.

And so onwards we go to what the story is about and my full review!

The blurb

It has been a thousand years since the last Seed abandoned their duty. The mists are closing in. Finally, the Morning Bell tolls. A new Seed is born, but is it too late?

The rot eats away at mortals. The Witnesses pray so that they may not turn into one of the forgotten. And the constricting mists infect the lands with fear.

But there is more to this tale than just the Elders and their Seeds. Four mortals will have a part to play in Minethria’s fate. A farmer girl with only love in her eyes. A warrior born to the life of a refugee. A highborn stuck between the realm of gods and men. And a woman running into front lines and away from home.

Will the cycle finally be completed? Or will the mist swallow all?

“A seed is born and the evil is slain, so doth another cycle commence. Yet the last Seed born hath turned traitor, and the mists which had been pushed back, returneth.”

Trigger warnings

There are quite a few trigger warnings with this book and these are listed below.

Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader): 

● Graphic violence

● Rape

● Self harm

● Emotional abuse

● Suicidal ideation

● Disability

● Mental health (depression)

● Graphic sex

● Child death

● Ableism

● Short scene involving dead dog

Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):

● Sexism

The review

So this is quite the book. Truly. I’ve never read anything like it. Grimdark and bloody, but also sensitive and with character depth that is rarely achieved. It’s a book like none other. Kian Ardalan is the new prince of grimdark – and he has arrived on the scene with a bang.

However, right at the very start of the review, I’m going to say that my first half will be about the story and worldbuilding and prose. The second half will be thoughts on the content and sensitive scenes which Kian has included.

Firstly, the book.

It’s incredible. Much recently published fantasy has veered into low-fantasy, where we have worlds that feel very like our world and with mostly human characters. When we do see fantastical characters, they are those we know well. Dwarves, elves, halflings, dragons, goblins, and trolls.

Not so here. The wonderous creatures we see and read about are truly a thing of wonder, even perhaps surpassing Malazan in terms of scope and detail. Indeed, the historical backstory and worldbuilding around the Eleventh Seed is a masterpiece. G.R.R. Martin eat your heart out.

The characters are extraordinary. Nora and Dalila were my absolute favourites, and their journeys were traumatic, though ultimately hopeful. It all felt very real and how these events impacted the characters and their decisions was delved into in such a way that the characters did not feel like they existed in ink at all, but rather real flesh and blood.

Chroma and Eferiel who are non-human characters are also incredible and they added such depth to this world. They are not human – and that shows. I do find sometimes that books containing elves and dwarves do little to differentiate them from humans, other than the fact they have pointy ears or long beards. This is not the case in Eleventh Cycle. Different types of beings act differently to the others.

And the prose is honestly incredible. I can’t even begin to praise it enough.

Kian Ardalan is an extremely talented writer. Take note everyone. He is an author to watch. It’s a long book and yet I devoured it, so keen was I to find out what happened next to my favourite characters. If you are a fan of grimdark or dark fantasy, you will enjoy this book, no doubt.

So the trigger warnings.

They are required and Kian doesn’t shy away from that. The story contains sexual assault, rape, torture, limb removal, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Some readers will be very uncomfortable reading these scenes.

They are never gratuitous and only ever written from the protagonist’s point of view – never from the view point of the criminal or aggressor. That’s important to note. The two women who experience the abuse/mental health issues are harmed by their ordeals but are not victims and don’t wait around for a saviour knight to rescue them. They have their own agency. That’s also important to note. They feel very real and the tragedy that unfolds around them are discussed in the story and are part of the characters. Never ignored.

There is one scene that might push readers too far. One scene did make me pause for a moment.

Pondering on my thoughts after reading –  I wanted to really think about why this was.

In truth, the story did make me think about violence and sexual violence in literature. There isn’t a huge amount of it. It’s clear why. It’s hard to read about. It isn’t escapism and unfortunately there are many people who have experienced these issues first hand. To read about this type of suffering can be too difficult.

And yet, these issues do exist, and they don’t exist infrequently either. They occur much, much too often.

When difficult realities are not included in art, sometimes it’s because they make for hard reading/viewing. Is this a good thing or not? Are we ignoring issues that need fixing by not having these conversations? In my opinion, it’s not good to sweep things under the carpet, that only leads to more suffering.

So, where does Eleventh Seed fall in this conversation?

Well, this is an adult book. Adult themes are included. The book is about war and the realities of that. Scenes do not fade to black as they don’t in real life. I remember the first time I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I didn’t realise she had been raped. The language was all flowery prose and metaphor. But rape isn’t like that. In the Eleventh Cycle, these scenes are not hidden by metaphor. They are explicit. They are raw and real and difficult. The same goes for the torture scenes.

What makes these difficult themes work at all is Kian’s skill as a writer. What could be unpalatable in the hands of one writer works for Kian. His work is thought-provoking and never feels gratuitous. And as I said before, the characters are able to find hope for themselves, and ultimately this left me feeling hopeful too. In fact, I feel the sexual content is handled better here than some romantic fantasies I’ve read recently that dresses up non-consensual sex as somehow desirable, which I find incredibly dishonest.

However, I will say here and now, while this book is fantastic, and I loved it, and will be reading the sequel – do read the warnings before you embark. If you are in a dark place or have personal experience with the trigger issues noted, do pause to consider how reading this content will make you feel before reading.

So that’s my review. It’s a book that will not fail to make you think. It’s a book that will absolutely absorb you and will be in your mind long after you’ve turned the last page. No one who has read this will pick it up a few years later and think, oh, I can’t quite remember what happened. It is, in short, unforgettable.

A huge congratulations to Kian. You have created something quite unique and I know it’s going to be a huge success. Your skill as a write has astounded me. I look forward to reading whatever you come up with next.

The bio

Kian N. Ardalan was born in Germany, Dusseldorf to Persian parents and has since travelled between so many places that he sees himself as a person of the world; well, with one exception.

When he wasn’t playing video games or reading novels (mostly Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz) or trying to convince his parents to watch that R-rated movie about vampires and werewolves, he delved into fantasy worlds of his own making.

It began with a novella about a young girl, not hoarded by a fierce dragon, but rather protected and raised by one.

On the other hand, The Fantastically Underwhelming Epic wonders why the hero of the story always has to be some all-powerful child of prophecy? Why can’t it just be about a clueless, young bard who is simply trying to make good on a promise with a wise-cracking skull as their companion?

Despite his teacher’s warnings, Kian decided to lean into that realm and now invites others to also explore these vibrant (and perhaps worrying) reflections of his own psyche.

Stay tuned for his upcoming book, inspired by the cryptic world of Dark Souls.

Author Site: www.kiannardalan.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArdalanKian

Sales links and other information

Book Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Eleventh-Cycle-Mistland-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0BD7T5WRL/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eleventh-cycle-kian-n-ardalan/1142234086

Silverstones Books: https://silverstonesbooks.com/product/eleventh-cycle/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59425056-eleventh-cycle

Book Information:

Eleventh Cycle by Kian N. Ardalan
Series: Mistland
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Grimdark
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 802
Published: February 3, 2023
Publisher: Self Published

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