Book Review: The Fifth Vertex

The Fifth Vertex (The Sigilord Chronicles #1)
Published By: Kevin Hoffman
Publication Date: August 2014
Page Count: 290
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Source: eARC Kindly Provided by Author via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy

Urus, Goodwyn and Cailix come of age as they follow Murin on the quest to defeat a powerful cadre of blood mages who want to destroy the magic-imbued vertex stones that protect their world. The heroes confront seemingly insurmountable internal and external challenges along the way. 

 To start, let me say that I loved (LOVED!) that the main character, Urus, is deaf. I honestly can’t think of another main character in any of my fantasy reading with that kind of serious disability. Meeting this immensely likeable character on the eve of the worst day of his life and seeing him attempt to kill himself drew me into his story immediately. He is the ultimate underdog in a Sparta-like society that focuses purely on military concerns. 

Goodwyn and Cailix were also fun to spend time with. Goodwyn is the premier young soldier of his age, but is also as good-natured as his name implies. He continues to care about Urus and, tellingly, to interact with him even after he is “culled” from the ranks of young Kestian men worthy to fight for their people, instead of shunning Urus as he is supposed to do. Cailix is a cynical, old soul who knows how to take care of herself, but is yet touchingly naïve is some areas. She’s definitely one I would want on my side on a quest to save the world. A great cast of characters, who nearly all experience growth, made reading The Fifth Vertex a pleasure. 

The Fifth Vertex observes the conventions of the fantasy genre while giving readers a little something extra. Hoffman’s magic systems have rules, even if we don’t understand them completely. I like that there are (at least) two different kinds of magic workers in his world: the blood mages and the sigilords. That there is a history of contention between the two is conventional; that there is a potentially more powerful third party interfering in the rivalry makes it even more interesting. Especially so, when Hoffman throws in the science fiction-y concept of multiple worlds with varying levels of technology. I am curious to see where he takes it in the next book. 

There were two negatives for me with The Fifth Vertex. First, the novel does have some occasional awkward sentences and descriptions that generally get weeded out of traditionally published books. A couple of them disrupted the tone of a scene or made me temporarily blink in confusion. Not enough to pull me out of the story entirely, but enough to be definitely noticeable. Second, the cover is kind of odd looking. It does show each of the main characters, but it seems like it should be for a graphic novel rather than a regular book. 

You never know what you’re going to get with a self-published author, but this is one of those times when taking a chance paid off. Hoffman’s entry into the fantasy genre is a solid first effort.

Urus Noellor--a boy born deaf who is about to be publicly branded as a burden, incapable of being the warrior his people demand--stands upon a rooftop, poised to throw himself over the edge. His failed attempt at suicide unlocks within him a long-dormant form of magic thought to have died out thousands of years before, a power that may be the key to saving the world from an equally ancient enemy. 

Urus and his companions--Goodwyn, the greatest warrior in Kest, and Cailix, a mysterious orphan--must find a way to stop a powerful group of sorcerers from destroying the five long-hidden vertices that ward the world against threats from beyond, while fighting off threats from within. They soon learn that the scope of the coming danger may be more dire than any of them could have imagined. As the battle for the vertices spreads to the neighboring realms, Goodwyn must face the realities of war and death; Cailix discovers a devastating truth that could change everything; and Urus discovers his uncanny gifts and courage as he peels away clues to his true identity. But even as Urus gains the power he has always craved, he experiences it all in profound, lonely silence.