Phil Tucker's Bastion
A great mix of classic progression with some top tier worldbuilding.
Many progression fantasy series start with a similar pattern. An unfortunate, downtrodden, or unlucky individual is wronged, usually in an academic or sect environment, and then they claw their way through the classes, pushing themselves into excellence.
Bastion opens similarly, and I was preparing myself for a bit of ‘more of the same’. When the Chancellor starts explaining a points system for Academic progression through the Gauntlet (aka dungeon / spire / magical testing realm) a spark of worry lit inside me. And then, as if Phil was watching my very expression, the author laughs, picks up the main character, Scorio, and tosses him literally out the door and into hell.
Make no mistake, point systems can work. Lindon as Points-sage, Corin Cadence and Zorian in their merticulous analytics. But it wouldn’t fit the rash and impulsive Scorio, and rather than shoe-horn in a system which clashes with the characters the author ups the stakes.
And not just some standard fire and brimestone hell, no, the city of Bastion is delightfully foreign. The physicist in my approves of the non-Euclidean geometry the city inhabits. The giant filament of light called the Sunwire, delightful. The premise of the main cast - immortal great souls reincarnated over and over in the war against Hell, may seem ordinary, but it is stepped in so much rich thought and world-building that it feels fresh and original.
These thoughts and extra touches are everywhere. Gone are the dull power systems from many other works (F-ranker, E-ranker, what could be next I wonder…), and the progression system is Char to Cinder to Emberling to Tomb Spark and beyond. A dash of fire, a touch of hell, and we have some proper infernal themed progression.
I’m trying to keep this spoiler free, so let’s briefly touch on the size of the work.
It is massive. Huge. 800 pages of firey goodness.
I was a bit surprised that the work wasn’t split into two, there’s a large conflict, resolution, and arc change perfectly in the center of book, but hey, I’m not complaining that I get to read twice as much great content. Thanks for that Phil, I appreciate it… even if now I chastise myself that my books aren’t long enough. Size isn’t everything.
This has both size and quality.
I’m waffling. If you like high stakes, gritty determination, and an amazing setup for what is no doubt going to be a hugely popular series, scroll up, click on one of those buttons, and get reading. If you don’t like the book, I’ll eat a Black Star plant, toxins and all.