A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
This is one of those books that I can appreciate a lot even if my enjoyment didn’t quite match the appreciation level, so this has been a difficult review for me to write. How do you talk about a book that felt very average, even while you know that it’s doing some very clever things and can appreciate all that went into the writing of it? I’m making this book sound bad, but that’s not the case at all! I very much think that my issue with this book is very much a ‘me’ thing and what I enjoy versus what I think a lot of other fantasy fans will like. So, just keep in mind as you read on that I’m going to sound rather contradictory at times because, well, I’m odd.
This book is extremely long–but length isn’t always a negative factor for me. However, with all of those words there can also be pacing issues due to the different story elements and the way they’re put together. This book has a ton of world-building! Personally, while I can appreciate vast world-building on an intellectual level, reading histories of made up worlds is not something I enjoy very much. I’m sorry book–it’s not you, it’s me! One thing I did appreciate about this world-building, is that we get to see the history not just from one culture but from several. We get to see how nations and cultures use history and sometimes alter it to support a narrative for their own purposes. Propaganda is alive and well, unfortunately. And it runs so deep here, tied up in the religion and politics, things that folks are taught not to question, it’s insidious.
So, back to the pacing. There is some action throughout, here and there, but for the most part the pacing gradually builds up over time until the climax of the novel. There are some twists and turns, sudden plot surprises that I didn’t see coming and threw me for a loop–those were fun! But, again, with a few exceptions it’s a steady climb to the end. I don’t want to blame this on the length, but I think in a shorter novel the pacing wouldn’t have gotten to me so much. In between any action there is a lot of the history of the world, characters searching for answers, and the building of relationships between various characters.
Normally I would have been all in with the relationships–characters are always my connection to a book. However, I didn’t feel connected to most of the characters right up until the end, which is a shame because, on paper, the main characters are all pretty awesome. The characters are fully fleshed out, each has their own motivations and desires which sometimes come into conflict with one another with devastating results. I did also appreciate the diversity of the characters and showing all the different cultures we got to explore. I loved that the main character (if there is one in a mulit-pov epic fantasy such as this) Ead is in a role that is both mage and warrior–a lady-in-waiting can have so much depth in this world! I also enjoyed watching the relationship between her and Sabran develop over the course of the novel, even if I didn’t much care for Sabran. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s a bad ass! But, something about her just rubbed me the wrong way and I don’t know what it is. Sigh.
Overall, I wish I had enjoyed this one more. I’m sort of disappointed with myself, honestly. (It’s Lord of the Rings all over again!) Still, I’m rating this based on the things I appreciated about it and not necessarily how it made me feel because, at the end of the day, I do think it’s a great book and worthy of the praise it’s received. It’s a great epic fantasy with fantastic world-building featuring a diverse set of characters and it has some great themes circling around religion and politics and the intersection of those things. 4/5 stars.