Iron Ruin (The Red Spire #1) by Raymond Sykes


Iron Ruin is a dark fantasy debut like no other. It is a coming of age story filled with blood and gore, magic and swords, gods and monsters, madness and evil. Notice I didn’t say good and evil. There’s a reason for that.

I read the novel as being from the perspective of a man telling a story of his youth. The main protagonist is 8-turned-9 years old, and we can wreck our brains all day debating how a child would act in the situations he was thrown in or what he would think or say when seeing what he was shown, but overall the writer did a really good job at keeping us believing.

The writing itself was very sophisticated, which is another reason why I felt like I was reading a story from a mature person, not a child, and not be thrown off when he talks about concepts he immediately says he did not understand.

The plot moved along pretty quickly and I had no time to get bored. I felt invested in the characters and I really liked how their struggles also had consequences. Big consequences. It’s rare to see main characters lose limbs or minds, and it gave a very realistic feel to it.

Now, when Sykes warns “Contains adult themes, imagery, and language” he’s not kidding. If you’re reading epic fantasy you’re probably not squeamish and pretty used to the abundance of gore, torture, rape, and murder. However, this book takes it up a notch with explicit scenes of child torture, rape, and murder (not always in that order).

While I have to give Sykes props for not abusing the gay=child molester cliche, the constant themes of child rape (mostly little girls) were more than disturbing. There’s also something unsettling about reading graphic sexual and rape scenes from the eyes of a 9 year old. Many times it felt forced (see what I did there?) and unnecessary, but I’m not the writer so who am I to say I guess.

While the novel had an abundance of the best themes from epic fantasy, it also suffered from some of the worst. The main one was all women being nothing but walking boobs and vaginas, so every female in the book was either raped, the rapist, or a prostitute. That’s it. No grey area. It makes for bad etiquette when half your audience is women.

Iron Ruin was a solid debut, though maybe a little too dark for me. If you’re looking for a dark fantasy with much horror and brutality, try it out. If scenes depicting child rape are a deal breaker, I would steer away. I hope that for volume two, we get to see some different themes and a more balanced approach.


3 thoughts on “Iron Ruin (The Red Spire #1) by Raymond Sykes

  1. It is strange how the world of the novel can overtake a writer. In real life I am proud to say I am a feminist – I own more than a dozen feminist books and despise all things sexist – and yet in Iron Ruin the characters, situations, and depictions were quite obviously man-oriented. I cannot pretend to explain why this is, but I can foreshadow that in the coming instalments of The Red Spire, Jenni will play an ever more active and pivotal role; and she will often be the one who does the saving, instead of getting saved.

    What did you think about the concept of The Red Spire itself? And you mentioned the plot moving fast. Do you think it ever moved TOO fast?

    Great review, Anna. Very honest and clear. I’ll bear it in mind when writing my next book (which I hope you’ll check out!)


    • I liked the Red Spire’s concept and don’t think the plot moved too fast, I think it was very well paced. It’s rare to see a fantasy novel without paragraphs upon paragraphs of explanations that I end up skimming through because they get tiresome but still provide the same feel as a fantasy should.

      I think it’s easy to get lost in the “storm the castle save the princess” mentality in a fantasy. It’s pretty easy to see the gender of the writer just by how men and women are depicted. I’m sure that you will take it into consideration in your next installment.

      Liked by 1 person

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