Best Fantasy Book Series

Death's Merchant

REVIEW

Death’s Merchant follows the story of Trin, a merchant, who has been cursed by Fate to bring the God of Death into the world, and Jem, a teenage boy who is in pursuit of revenge against people who ruined his childhood. Trin and Jem are being used as pawns in a war between the gods, but they don’t know it.

The thing we liked most about the book was the character building. Death’s Merchant has over 100 characters, with about 25 of them being prominent. With so many prominent characters we’d expect some bland ones, but this wasn’t the case. Every character has a clearly defined personality and acts based on their own motives. Some of them are serious and other are humorous. This gave the book a good mix of plot and entertainment.

The second thing we liked about the book was the humor and satire. Justan makes fun of the fantasy genre in both blatant and subtle ways. A blatant example that made us laugh, is when Jem leaves his small wood-cutting village and meets a wizard who attempts to send Jem east on a quest. The wizard even offers to be Jem’s guide. Jem refuses the offer (in a surprising and entertaining way) and runs west, stealing the wizard’s staff in the process. 

The gods in the pantheon offered us subtle satire with their roles juxtaposed against their personality. For example: Fate isn’t a beautiful god who is creating wonderful destinies for people. Instead, she is an evil force that will steal your life if you bargain with her. To add to the fun, the god of Thought is scatter brained and the god of Justice isn’t very just. And the Mother, well, we’ll let you figure out what’s satirical about her nature.

Another thing we liked about the book was the number of risks Justan Henner took in writing it. First of all, it is big and complex. The book itself is almost 1300 pages. It is told from 13 personal points of view, mostly in past tense. However, one character lapses into present tense on occasion (when a trance overtakes him). The book also has an omniscient narrator in the first chapter and the last that uses, past, present, and future tense. By playing with point of view and tense, Justan increased the feeling the book gave in certain situations. Chapter 1 is a good example of a dreamy feel the omniscient narrator gives. The present tense Jem falls into gives a trance-like feel. For the most part, we felt that the risks paid off. We liked the size and scope, the feeling given while reading, and how the large number of characters played off each other and came together in the end.

Justan gets a few extra points in the prose and philosophy categories. You’ll find a lot of sentences and scenes that make you stop and think about the world Justan has built. In addition, much of the philosophy is written beautifully. Here’s an example: “Free will is a gift beyond the grasp of gods and Fate.” Here’s another example: “It is not often that we find our destiny. It is far more common that it should find us.”

An example of philosophy that we particularly liked was from a character who is quite cynical. He breaks the world into three populations; leaders, followers, and slaves. He has a unique take on which groups are better than the others. To make it even more interesting, the character does some introspection with lines like this: “He had failed, and now he returned in shame, knowing that he was not a slave, as he had prided himself as being, but a follower; because he was giving in willingly, when a braver man would have accepted death.”

The one thing we felt the book was lacking was someone to really, really, hate. The book does have villains, but we only felt one of them got to the level where we disliked him enough to evoke negative emotions. Some of the other bad characters were pitted against each other so we weren’t sure who we were supposed to be rooting for. Nevertheless, they still had fun storylines. 

Overall, Death’s Merchant ticked off a lot of the boxes we use for scoring a book. Great characters in an interesting world, complex storylines told from a large number of perspectives, fun humor, thoughtful philosophy, and beautiful prose. For those reasons, Death’s Merchant makes our Must Read Fantasy Books list.

DETAILS

Series Author Rating Must Read Number of Pages Year Published
Common Among Gods Justan Henner Yes 1278 2017

AUDIENCE

Adults Young Adults and Teenagers

GENRE

Epic High Sword and Sorcery

MAIN   CHARACTER   TYPES

Gods and Goddesses Witches and Wizards