After I was blown away last year by Luther M. Siler’s short story collection The Benevolence Archives v1, I was eager to try the series’ first novel, The Sanctum of the Sphere. I saved it to read on vacation, because I knew once I started reading I wouldn’t put it down.
The BA series is a nice mix of Star Wars-style space opera with D&D races; basically, this is my kind of sci-fantasy. It was great to be back with the dynamic duo of scoundrels, gnome Brazel and half-ogre Grond, plus several other side characters previously introduced in BA v1. (But don’t worry if you haven’t read BA v1; this story can stand on its own, and you will not be confused in any way.)
The characters really are my favorite thing about Sanctum of the Sphere and BA in general. It was really great to see Brazel’s wife Rhundi in particular take a large role here. Two new characters stood out as well: genderless elf Asper (Siler manages to write with gender-neutral pronouns in a way that isn’t entirely annoying) and Brazel and Rhundi’s daughter Darsi who’s now old enough to get in on some of the action (and she’s definitely her mother’s daughter).
I want to give a special shout-out to Brazel’s ship AI, the Nameless (or Namey as it’s nicknamed). You know you’ve got a deep character roster when the most dramatic and emotional scenes in the book revolve around a talking spaceship.
Although I liked that the novel gave some resolution to one of the short stories that left me hanging in BAv1, I think I somewhat preferred the short story format because it served the characters well without having to additionally focus on plot. While I liked that Sanctum’s plot elements heavily referenced Star Wars (specifically ROTJ), I didn’t find the story as original or suspenseful as Siler’s other novel Skylights (that’s right, Siler, I’m grading you against yourself now).
The BA world continues to be intriguing; I enjoyed its expansion in Sanctum, including learning some more about the titular Benevolence. Yet I still feel like I don’t know much about them? I do love that the opposition is also called the Malevolence.
Overall, I highly recommend this book if you like fun space operas with action and lots of swearing. It’s a pretty quick read, too; I read the whole thing on a transatlantic flight.
Check out more about the Benevolence Archives books here; they are available for Kindle and in print on Amazon, as well as digitally on Smashwords and other sites.