This is pornokitchs’s finalist! I picked it solely for that reason, and I knew nothing about it going into it. It actually took me a little bit to get into the book, but once I did I sailed through it quickly even given its size. I haven’t read Porno’s other picks for semifinalists yet so I can’t compare this to its competition, but I do get why this one was picked as a finalist, I enjoyed it a lot.
This is another sibling story, I’ve gotten a bunch of those recently. Three kids are living alone in a city called Tarot and its not a very nice place to holed up. The kids hate being there and they are desperate for a way to get out – and lo and behold a secret message is sent in a very sinister kind of way, and the first decision for the kids had to be made. Do they stay in Tarot and continue on with their lives, struggling for food and money with absent parents, or do they follow this mysterious letter out into the world of their enemies, the vuma’s.
This decision actually splits up the trio, with the oldest sibling staying and working in Tarot, while the younger two siblings follow a vuma guide out into enemy territory on an adventure to Eldermoon. The trek takes sort of forever, and it’s really dangerous, everything from enemy vuma to sinking mud pits that can kill you. They aren’t entirely sure they can trust their guide either, is he really leading them to be trained, or is he leading them into a trap?
The oldest kid gets in some trouble in Tarot and has to figure out what he’s going to do and where he’s going to go because he can’t stay where he is.
Kisli is a character that’s not one of the siblings, and she has her own subplot going on in the army.
We actually start the story with a prologue of a vuma character that comes back and gut punches you around 70% through the book, I love when prologues are actually used in the meat of the story and connects rather than just floating on its own at the beginning.
- Miller – the oldest Raining child, he works at a shop identifying magical objects and their uses, he doesn’t get paid much but he’s good at what he does.
- Tay – the middle Raining child, struggling to find work in Tarot and help support her family
- Ellstone – the youngest Raining child, from the start a clear nerd/academic lost in books of history, culture, science, magic etc.
- Kisli Thomas – a soldier in training, seemingly unconnected until about 50% through
The characters were well done in this book for the most part, at first I had a little bit of trouble distinguishing the different characters because they have a similar way of speaking and seem kind of the same, Miller and Ellstone are both academics but Ellstone is a little more…. angry? Ellstone has been picked on a lot, so it’s possible he’s much less trusting of people and vumas and life in general because of it, while Miller is a little more light hearted. Tay is the one who really stands out from the siblings as the one who’s the most adventurous and has the most easily identifiable voice for me.
Kisli is sort of off on her own at first and it doesn’t seem like she’s relevant to the story, but she is, and I actually enjoyed her chapters the most because it was getting a look at the opposite side of the story, two characters are off in Vuma, one character is back in Tarot, but you get to see the army and other important characters through Kisli’s POV.
As with many young characters, these guys make a lot of dumb choices for their own reasons, but they do grow and learn from it which was neat to see.
I liked the world building it was light but consistent and made sense, it’s not going to beat you over the head with info dumps and expansive lords and ladies and houses, it’s not that kind of story. The back story for how the vuma’s came to be and how they are different from the humans was nice. Vuma blood is actually used in enchanted items because their blood works like a magnet for magic, funneling in ambient magic around them allowing enchanted items with vuma blood never to lose their potency.
I also liked how magic and science worked in this world, magic is sort of a field of study in science and I’m always down for a world like that.
For the most part the humans focus on tech and the vuma’s focus on magic, but the kids are being trained how to use magic and get into other peoples minds.
The government for the humans is known as The Ninety and they come into play in Kisli’s POV.
The vuma’s have this cool order called The Brotherhood of Lightning and it’s a revamped version of an old cult that was feared throughout the world because they were known to do horrible shit.
One of the creepiest things a mindwalker can do is get into the mind of a dying person, one of the characters described watching someone die from inside their own head is like “watching a fireworks show”, I don’t know why that stuck with me so hard but it did, what an intense thing to do to someone, invade their mind as they’re dying and watching their most private memories and thoughts.
The book is long, and it can wander a bit but it always pulls itself back and even during the slower bits there’s still enough intrigue to keep you turning pages. Slow burn isn’t always a bad thing, but maybe a little bit could have been cut to make it go a little faster where it needed to.
The prose are rather utilitarian, but not so much so that you’re going to feel like it’s amateur writing, a lot of my favorite authors have a more utilitarian style that lets the prose get out of the way of the story.
The story is written as a memoir with each chapter being written by a different person, at first this was a little confusing, but at the top of each chapter it tells you who’s talking.
- People who like a lot of magic
- People who like coming of age stories
- People who like seeing two sides of a war
- People who like multi POV
- People who like sibling stories
- People who like longer books – 609 pages
- People who like second person writing