For the third and final review for today, I’m reviewing Tainted by Krystle Matar. This was originally a story in the Dark Ends Anthology, but has been expanded into a full novella here and is set in the same world as her stunning debut Legacy of the Brightwash (Review here), and is currently one of the amazing books available in this Indie Fantasy Giveaway. This was a fantastic novella and reminded me just how much I love Matar’s characterization.
Glaen must choose: the woman he loves, or freedom. Does he comply with the law of the Authority, or does he continue to see Gianna, the only light of his life? The consequences of his choice will ripple through more than he realizes. Revolution can start with a single shot.
‘It was hatred like that, unreasoning and blinding and consuming, which had turned the tainted into an inferior class. It didn’t care that they all bled the same blood, couldn’t be reasoned with or soothed. Hatred like that killed people.’
What a delight it was to be back in the world of the Tainted Dominion. I loved Legacy of the Brightwash when I read it earlier this year, so when I learned about this novella I had to read it and it didn’t disappoint, and I ended up consuming Tainted in one go because I didn’t want to put it down.
I am constantly in awe at what Matar does with her characterisation. There were some familiar faces, and some new characters who were all equally compelling to read about – but the real power of this novella lay in the fact that not only did it provide more backstory and depth to the story of Glaen and Gianna which we saw from another pov in Legacy, but that it offered a different viewpoint on familiar events and characters. It’s not quite a case of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but it had that kind of feeling, and it enriched both the characters that we were following in Tainted and those we know from the novel. This is particularly evident in how Glaen views Tashué after Gianna’s death, and after his experience in the Rift and meeting Tashué’s son – the ‘hero’ (as much as he can be considered as such in this world) was seen under a completely different light. That could be expected because of where they each fell on the spectrum of power, but its especially powerful here because if you’ve read the novel, you can see how it comes to mirror Tashué’s own views towards the end of the novel – but they reach that point through different paths. It’s almost ironic, but it makes it so compelling and just adds yet another delicious layer to this world.
It’s also interesting – in a painful way – to see how the man who had originally feared hate and what it could mean for the Tainted, was also consumed by the same emotion. It once again reinforces just how human this story is, and that nothing about this world is black and white, buy myriad shades of shifting grey.
I have to say that although we didn’t follow her as much as Glaen, I absolutely adored Gianna and her outlook on life. She was a wonderful splash of colour and hope against the backdrop of what was happening, and a wonderful, poignant counterpart to the much more cautious and fearful Glaen. Their relationship was beautiful to behold, and you could feel how precious those stolen moments were – and it made what happened to them all the more painful to witness.
‘The Residential Institute for Feral Tainted and Non-Compliants—the Rift—stood on an island in the Brightwash river, a great ugly behemoth that loomed upon the rock.’
Tainted also expands the world, and it was great to see more of the Rift as it had almost haunted the story in Legacy, a looming threat wrapped in mystery and here we got to see some of that peeled back. Matar really managed to capture the dark side of the regime here, and it was powerful because we got to experience it from the inside and from the view of an inmate. For Glaen it was a crucible, honing his fear and grief, into hatred and a search for revenge – without losing those other parts of himself. But, it was also a microcosm of the world itself, rather than those with Talent who had been incarcerated working together against their oppressors, instead, you saw those who could gain power using it against their own – reinforcing that this is a world of unbalanced scales, where human choices are forced to the extreme.
An absolutely fantastic addition to the Tainted Dominion, and it makes me even more excited for Legacy of Brick and Bone. Emotionally powerful, action-packed and compelling from start to finish, and another excellent example of character-driven storytelling from Matar.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.