Despite the challenges -- crazed magicians, guitar-playing assassins, mutated beasts -- she pushes on with a single-mindedness that may destroy all she holds dear.
The Way of the Black Beast by Stuart Jaffe tells the story of Malja. In a world that is suffering a complete collapse after "The Devastation" there is danger everywhere. Magic exists, but seems to take the users sanity a tiny bit with every spell cast. Malja has no magic and has very little use for it. After being raised by two brother wizards who saw her as only a tool and threw her away to survive on her own when she proved a disappointment to them. She is found by "Uncle" Gregory who raises her like his own child, teaching her morals that Jarik and Callib weren't interested in. When the brother magicians send assassins to kill Gregory Malja beings her quest to kill them. Along the way she meets Tommy, a young man enslaved on a ship, who is also a budding magician.
The opening of the book drew me in instantly. Malja fighting with Viper (super cool weapon) and an example of how magic works had me very intrigued by the world. The story keeps a pretty decent rate of action with Malja being very comfortable solving her problems with her weapon. She is not just a psychotic killer as she has period of inner reflection coming to terms with what she does and what she is. There are several characters that end up joining the quest, not all of them getting along very well. The conflict adds a little humor and is used to explain some of the aspects of the world without using an info dump.
There was a point in the book where I started to lose a little interest, I didn't become bored by any means, just lost some of the intensity that was established at the beginning. There were still points throughout the rest of the book that reestablished that level of interest, but one thing I really would have liked to know is the story behind Viper. The blade is referred to by name for the entire book and is an extremely unique weapon, but no mention is made of how Malja acquired it. I imagine that the story will be revealed in a further book of the Malja Chronicles, but that is just a guess. This book had a solid ending then started a what could be the story line for the next book in the series. This is a series that I will keep looking at to see where Stuart will take Malja next for certain. Overall score 3.5 stars.
This book can be purchased on Amazon, Smashwords, and for more into check out Stuart's website.