This is a book review of Joseph Sale’s Prince of the Wasteland, Book 1 of the Book of Thrice Dead series.
A rich, visceral, violent adventure, Prince of the Wasteland is one of those post-apocalyptic books that takes the genre from sci-fi into dark fantasy, and in a tense and exciting way.
What’s Prince of the Wasteland About?
From the ashes of the nuclear apocalypse, The Apostles rule the rubble of New York with murderous intent and otherworldly powers. Their leader is The Prince, who, with the curse of foresight, dominates the present.
Brian Mor, the Man in the Black Hat, was once a loyal Apostle, a bringer of death. He has done terrible things in the name of the fragile order, so scarce in the New World. But now he’s begun to question the Prince’s power. There are things he cannot see, and if the Prince has lied about his power, what else isn’t true? Has his whole life been a joke? Ultimately Brian Mor has to decide whether the brutality of a fragile peace is better than a chaotic hope for the future, and does one life pay for another?
This book is mesmerizing. While it’s gory, it’s more warped and weird than entirely disturbing. This, of course, depends on what you find disturbing (for example, this book contains body horror, violence, and a person bathing in sewage). It’s gruesome at times, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous. There is also no sexualized violence in this novel.
It’s very short, extremely easy to follow, and it keeps up a steady sense of dread and tension throughout the entire book.
It’s multi-point of view, following several characters, some of whom have magical powers and work for Michael, the prince, and two who do not. All the characters, even the gross weirdos, are so compelling. We don’t get too much time with any of them, but they still managed to be well-developed, and their motivations and choices make sense. I liked all of them, even the grossest of all the weirdos, Splice. Perhaps “like” isn’t the best word, as, aside from Lucy and Dina, none of these people are morally gray—they are full-on evil. Yet, some of the nefarious characters struggle with their corruption and morality, and, as such, they are understandable and, if not quite sympathetic, palatable.
Of all of them, Dina, an absolute badass, was my favourite character, but all of their narratives are equally fascinating and conceptually rich. It’s a book about people who think if they can just restart the world, they can make it better, but in so doing, they somehow make it far worse. It’s also about manipulation and abuse. It carries such a heavy thematic weight while also being edge-of-your-seat entertaining.
The book is so short, but there’s so much to talk about! The magic system is interesting, and the different skill sets are fun (it’s kind of like mutant powers in that all the apostles have different magical skills). The setting is a typical nuclear wasteland post-apocalyptic city (New York) but with a drastically reduced population. The plot is kind of all over the place, but in a good way. I did wish we had a bit more time with the how of the nuclear bombs, like how Michael and team were in that position and how he collected and convinced these people to follow him; while not necessary to the plot, that would have been interesting to know.
Did I love the book? Not quite love, but I definitely found it fascinating and unputdownable. And that cover is gorgeous.
Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart!
You can find the book on Amazon