Ahriman : The Dead Oracle

QUICK REVIEW – Ahriman : The Dead Oracle – John French

In a chronological sense Ahriman : The Dead Oracle is the first short story in John French’s The Tale of Ctesias arc that accompanies and runs through the wider Ahriman series. Set between Exile and Sorcerer we meet Ctesias as he first joins Ahriman’s resurgent cabal, taking his place in a mission in that takes him to the domain of Menkaura, the Blind Oracle. Preparing to sully his soul with yet another despicable act, Ctesias soon finds himself in deeper trouble than he expected.

As an introduction to the character of Ctesias this is a clever, vivid story, rich with hints of what’s to come. Ctesias is reflective, resigned, embittered by an extended lifetime of tough choices, and as a narrator his voice is both intriguingly honest and potentially (very) unreliable. As the story progresses we see Ahriman and his fellows through Ctesias’ cynical eyes, a deliberate decision by French to keep Ahriman’s thoughts and motivations hidden from the reader. It works a treat, maintaining the mystery of what’s to come and giving Ahriman an air of both omniscience and cold arrogance. Ctesias himself is a fascinating protagonist, but even though this is ostensibly his story it’s clear that this is very much part of the Ahriman arc. Nevertheless, it’s satisfying taken as either a standalone story or part of the wider whole.

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