by Krystle Matar
Originally featured on Self-Published Fantasy Month.
Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?
Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.
Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?
Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
Every so often a book comes along that makes you question everything. It makes you question the quality of the books you’ve read before. It makes you question your own writing skill and what on earth you’re doing with your life? It makes you question why it’s suddenly 4am and you’re wide-awake thinking about fictional characters. It makes you question why you didn’t start reading this damn book sooner.
Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar is one such book, a world full of its own questions and mysteries which unravel across the pages. This world is a bleak and oppressive take on a Victorian-inspired gaslamp city which captures that grim and smoggy atmosphere from chapter one while also managing to be smooth and sophisticated at the same time. Though there is an aristocracy acting as the aristocrats do, the story is told from the boots of ex-military man Tashué Blackwood, and we see the rougher and poorer side of the city of Yaelsmuir through his eyes. It all begins when a mutilated child washes up on the Brightwash, the river which cuts through the city. Haunted by this child’s death, and the seemingly uncaring attitude of the witnesses around him, Tashué launches an investigation that makes him question everything he’s ever known.
As a Regulation Officer for the Authority, Tashué helps “regulate” the Talented—unlucky citizens born with magical powers that make them well suited for certain jobs, such as healing, lighting the lanterns across the city, and even powering the trams. Registering as a Talented means protecting the good citizens of the Dominion, and those who fail to register are locked away in the Rift, a prison on an island within the Brightwash.
Naturally, the actions of the Authority are for the best interests of those possessing a Talent, or so Tashué always believed. Follow the law and you’ll stay safe.
But what if the law is wrong?
As we come to learn more of the Dominion, we see the Talented are abused, dehumanized by the slur of “Tainted” and Tashué himself is forced to punish those under his charge for innocent activities such as fraternization. This, and his investigation into the dead child, unveils a darker side of the Authority that causes him to question his place within it. Especially as his own son is locked away in the Rift for refusing to register as Talented.
But this story isn’t just about Tashue’s conflicting struggle with his conscience. A whole cast of characters come to life on the streets of Yaelsmuir, and every single one of them feels like they belong. While Tashué is very much the main character, we do see this world through different POV’s, and each has their own goals and motivations which clash. This is definitely a character driven story, and these characters are certainly driven in different directions. I feel for Tashué as he’s slowly pulled apart and I just know the future isn’t going to be easy on him!
As you may have guessed, this is a grim story which is dark and traumatic in places. It’s a story of frustration and anger and grief and mourning. It’s a story of desperation and wanting to do the right thing, but not knowing how. Of wanting to make things right, but knowing that’s impossible. Of needing to discover the truth despite knowing how much it’ll hurt. Of a parent’s love for their children and how far they’d go to protect them.
And I’ll be honest and say this is a slow burn. When you first enter Yaelsmuir, you’ll initially get lost in the details of this world because it’s so full of depth and you’ll wonder where it’s taking you, but stick with it. Soon you’ll find yourself completely absorbed into this city with these characters. You’ll find yourself embroiled with the politics and wondering too about the mystery of the washed-up girl and whether the Authority can be trusted.
There have been many stories about magical people being enslaved or locked away, and I have published my own take on it, but Legacy of the Brightwash offers a different perspective, a more mature one in my opinion. I’ve honestly not read a book which dragged me into its world and made me feel for its characters quite like this.
Legacy of the Brightwash is heavy going but full of flavor, like a glass of whiskey in book form. And just like a good whiskey, it’ll burn through you, slow and hot.
This book will ask many questions and pull you on a journey to discover the answers. But the biggest question of all is, why haven’t you read it yet?