The Sanctum of the Sphere by Luther M. Siler

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.

Sanctum_72dpiThe 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.

4.5/5 stars

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.

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Benevolence Archives review–it’s free this weekend!

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“What if Star Wars had been about Han and Chewie instead of Luke?”

This is the idea behind The Benevolence Archives, a collection of six short stories by Luther M. Siler–I found BA through his blog Infinitefreetime, which is a riot and a half.  I enjoy his blog so much, I figured I’d give his actual writing a shot, and I must say I did not regret it.

This collection is available for Kindle from Amazon, and you can get it for free this weekend!

The BA stories follow a team of spacers for hire: half-ogre Grond, whose murky backstory involves time spent in a brutal gladiator arena, and gnome Brazel, whose wife Rhundi acts as the team’s legit front and sometimes fence.  These two have really fun chemistry; throw in a couple interesting side characters and a snarky ship and you have a really enjoyable cast.

You could basically imagine that these stories take place in the Star Wars universe, just with D&D races substituted for Wookies and Chadra-Fan.  There are also some subtle Star Wars references in the text, especially in BA 1, “The Planet It’s Farthest From:”  “I have a bad feeling about this,” etc.

Overall, the world-building is good in a subtle way; not much in the way of  info dumps here.  Interestingly, the Benevolence are just kinda hovering around the edges of the story–they are mentioned in passing, but we never actually see characters directly interact with them.  It creates an ominous tone that I really liked.

If you like scifi or fantasy adventure, and find lots of swearing amusing, I would definitely recommend this collection.

Tl;dr A fun, humorous space adventure with Star Wars roots 5/5 stars