Review: Warrior Prime by Victor Gischler

The cover captured my interest hard and fast on this title!

From the publisher:

Peyne Erlich’s mission from the king is to learn everything he can about the rival kingdom’s magical ink mage warriors. What he finds is Zayda Yond.

Ever since Zayda was sold into servitude by her financially destitute father, her masters have taught her a punishing lesson: erase the past. Collared with an unmovable band of exotic metal, she faces a future of slavery. She’s also become an ink mage, marked with a tattoo that enables her to experience the world as no one else can—a powerful honor, yet one out of her control. Now, Zayda dreams only of escape.

She gets her chance when a scuttled ocean passage leaves her in a longboat, and in the company of another lone survivor, Peyne, a foreign envoy—spoiled, noble, a libertine, and a gambler. He’s also a skilled fighter. And when they make it to land, in wild and unfamiliar jungle territory, he’s the only person Zayda can trust.

Then come rumors of a lost desert city said to hold the key to removing Zayda’s collar. Shadowed by enemies who want to use her power to win their own war, Zayda must fight for her freedom—whatever the cost. And Peyne will do anything to help her.


I haven’t read many publisher’s blurbs on their books. Usually, when I select a book, I’ve had it recommended to me. As I was considering this book, I had no recommendations. I admittedly fell victim to the cover. The artwork is eye catching and unique. Then I settled in and read the blurb. Strong woman. Harrowing circumstances. Hapless love interest. Romance? Fantasy? Adventure? Sold!

I’ve been in an absolute reading slump these last few months.  I’ve picked up titles I was excited about releasing and then put them back down after I realized I wasn’t “in the mood”. You know, you wait so long for a title to release, and then when you go to read it and you’re not ready for the world? You hesitate to dive in and waste the experience!

I was presented the opportunity to read Victor Gischler’s, Warrior Prime (available April 30th – and it’s going to be available as a KindleUnlimited book – win win!)

And since all the books I want to read and haven’t read aren’t catching my interest… I decided to jump in feet first into this new title (and be prepared to force myself to finish it).

Forced?! To Finish?! Was I ever more wrong! I spent my entire weekend hiding from my children to finish this book!!

I recently had a really good discussion with my fellow reading-enthusiasts at a monthly Book Brunch where all we do is practice book pitches. Literally. We try to convince each other to read the books we’re reading so we can talk more about the books we are reading. I highly recommend this style of a book club. No forced reading. No forced book discussions. It’s simply a game of one-up-manship on whose got the more addictive book to encourage others to read. I usually walk out of Brunch heady with All The Titles I Must Read.

But I digress..

Over Sunday Brunch we were doing our usual back and forth of “read this” and “read that” etc… etc… and we fell into a really good conversation. Often, as Book Enthusiasts, we know that you have to buckle down and bear through some drudgery in a book. There are many titles I have read where I’ve encouraged people to “keep with it” as it does pick up and get better. To fellow avid readers – they understand this struggle. To those who often find reasons to hate a book, or hate reading, or put books down… it can make less sense.

Warrior Prime does not suffer from this problem.

The pace of the book is quick with significant twists and turns that keep you flipping the pages to find out what’s next. For my busy life, thankfully, the suspense isn’t so high that I felt compelled to speed read to feel a moment of safety for the characters.

The plot is well thought out, the movement from scenes is effortless, and the dialogue is amazing. Victor’s writing style is engaging and his ability to develop characters is a rare gift.

As a reader, you’re going to be sucked in and invested in the main characters from the moment they splash on the page. I was prepared to love them – the publisher gave me clues I would. I was not nearly as prepared to fall in love with all the side characters as quickly as I did. Each one, though not fully fleshed out for us, are given moments to shine. I loved the multi-narrative approach so we could get to know them each individually without a single narrator holding us back from things a single narrator wouldn’t have known.

The choice for a multi-narrative is selective and not consistent. You do not have to flip back and forth between narrators to carry the plot. And for that, I am thankful. I can’t stand being on a hook in one chapter and on to the next chapter about an entirely different character. The multi-narrative is simply a way to open us up as readers to all the characters. I commend the approach and it certainly kept me engaged.

Real quick… before I bore you with my gushing over this book. I have to take a moment to give props to the characters individually.

Peyne, as described in the synopsis, is the stereotypical “rich boy” lordling. He’s privileged. He likes to drink. It’s assumed he likes women. His intro into the story… really highlights all his vices. As a reader we are supposed to know Peyne is charming, vapid, and sweet. I’ve read those characters numerous times. What Victor was skilled at, is representing that with the narrative (the whole show-not-tell approach). I often know what an author is intending me to feel. It’s rare that an author writes it in such a way that I feel the characters charm.

Spoiler free — here is one of my favorite lines of Peyne in the entire book:

“I feel that sarcasm is anti-productive at this time.”

Zayda is not a weak woman in need of rescuing, that’s clear, from the first moment we get introduced to her – we as readers know that.  Her struggle to become free is what leads all of us on a journey through a mysterious world. She’s not innately a bad-ass. She wasn’t born for the role she was foisted into. Her openness to her situation, her willingness to learn, and her desire to be free makes for an amazingly engaging heroine.

I had not read Victor’s fantasy trilogy A Fire Beneath the Skin and so I was learning about Ink Magic as Zayda was and I am so glad I did.  It really layered a richness to this book. Will I be diving head first into the trilogy now? You bet. It was so enriching to go on the journey with Zayda… understanding her new life with her.

You’d think given Zayda’s circumstance as a slave that she would be bitter or angry about her lot in life.  On the contrary, she offers some great introspection’s to the world around her and I believe that grounds her.

Spoiler free — here is one of my favorite quotes from her in the book:

“I think women are stronger than men,” she said.  “I don’t mean muscles. I mean inside. A kind of willpower.  Men could never go through childbirth. And when my father is sick, he lies in bed all day.  Mother keeps working.”

Even the notable bad guys (aside from the absolute insane villains – fuck those guys) of this story are rich and intriguing.  At one point I found myself rooting for the nemesis wizard who had no interest outside of learning more and controlling more magic. I could see his side, see his purpose, and from his point of view… yep. Nope. Fuck him too. But still. The power in the writing was there to make me listen to his narrative too.

The side plot of two countries prepared for war, on conflict with ambassadors, on a King who surprisingly wants to do right by his people?  All of it layered a richness to this book that words can do no justice.

This is a MUST read of 2019.  

I cannot wait for the following books that follow these rich characters! I leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs from the novel as Zayda… does what she must:

She became a perfect running machine, flashing across the roof, launching herself into the air and landing on the next roof, running and jumping again, a beacon of cold light blazing across the top of the city, the wind a roar in her ears.

book review

Jessica Means View All →

My professional background in biotechnology as a research chemist and as a veterinary technician has allowed me to have experienced two vastly different fields and for that I am thankful. In both careers, I have mentored, encouraged, and developed talent.

As a mother of two (a daughter and a son), I'm a self-proclaimed backyard chicken guru and someone who has “foster failed” nearly all the animals currently running the household. Oh, and I maintain a husband in my spare time.

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