Book Review: The Exercise of Vital Powers by Ian Grigoire

Summary:

Since its inception, The Order has been dedicated to the prevention of the misuse and abuse of magic. For seven decades this mandate has guaranteed peace and stability teovp-coverthroughout The Nine Kingdoms. But a potential threat to the peace has emerged, and its source is much closer to home than the leadership of The Order may realise.

Arrogant, manipulative, confrontational and angry. Undesirable qualities in a person at the best of times, but more so in a young woman born with the power to bring kingdoms to their knees. Kayden Jayta, precocious apprentice of The Order, is all these things and more, yet wholly unwilling to acknowledge and rectify her many troubling traits.

Unbeknown to anyone, Kayden’s resolute determination to join the ranks of The Order is born of a secret that puts her priorities at odds with the precepts of the organisation, setting her inexorably on a collision course with the most powerful institution in The Nine Kingdoms.

If Kayden is to be dissuaded from walking the path she has chosen, averting tragic consequences in the process, two unanswered questions must be answered: What is the dark secret guiding Kayden’s actions? And, why has a legendary figure within The Order, with a secret of her own, taken undue interest in Kayden’s future?

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Thoughts: 

It took me a long while to get into this book, but once I became invested it was a pretty good ride.

The story starts off following a group of mages as they are on a training mission, and it’s here that we’re introduced to our main protagonist, Kayden Jayta. The thing that stood out to me immediately is how dis-likable of a character she is, especially here at the beginning of the story. Kayden is smug, arrogant, rude, dismissive of others, and seemingly reckless. It’s clear that she is quite skilled at magic and strategy, as well as a few other things, but she’s really obnoxious about it. She puts down her classmates and goes so far as to physically assault one of the guards on duty during the exercise. Then she tops it all off with yelling at the head instructor and calling her a bitch to her face. So when a bunch of her classmates get together and decide to let her have it, I’m wasn’t really surprised, nor was I the least bit empathetic toward her. It’s very hard to root for a character who is such a terrible person. I think this is why I had a hard time getting into the book, because I’m such a character type reader. And while I don’t need to love a character to want to root for them, at least one thing to help me relate to them helps. But Kayden feels so completely irredeemable.

All that being said, redemption is one of the major themes of the story. Can a person who goes down the wrong path redeem themselves? The answer here is yes, they absolutely can. As long as a person has a chance to change, they can learn from their mistakes and become a better person and help others along the way. It may not make up for whatever they did in the past, but they can contribute to making the present and the future a better place. I thought this was a really great message.

The prose was great, but I feel like some of the storytelling itself was a bit clunky in the way it was executed. Certain things felt very obvious to me and parts of the story maybe would have been a bit more effective with a more subtle approach. Still, this didn’t really detract much from the story as a whole. Once I was able to get into the book, becoming invested with Kayden’s journey, things felt a little smoother. The characters we get to know later in the book, Master Ani and Master Fay, were among my favorites. I would love to hear more about their stories. I’m also curious about Kayden’s future, now that she’s on a different path. I’m definitely interested in reading more about these characters.

Overall, this was a story focused on character growth and development with strong themes about redemption. Anyone looking for those things in a fantasy novel should definitely think about giving this one a try. 3.5/5 stars.

Thanks to the author for providing a copy for review purposes. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review in any way.

 

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Exercise of Vital Powers by Ian Grigoire

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  1. Oof yeah, I feel you on the unlikable protagonist. The MC of one of my current reads is super similar to Kayden (just so, so hateable), and for most of the read I’ve just been muttering angrily at my tablet. I do like redemption stories, though! And that cover is seriously awesome.

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