This is one of six books chosen by Ventureadlaxre for the semi finalist position, all of the books in their grouping now have feedback! I’ve read 3/6 of the semi finalists and plan to read the rest as part of the 100 book challenge.
This is one of the most mind blowingly detailed books I’ve read in a very long time, there’s an expansive list of both side and main characters – and most of those characters and their houses all have back stories. Those backstories have ties that connect them to other houses in ways that are both obvious and subtle which makes for a really complex plot.
If you’re picking this one up give yourself a little bit of time to get into the world, it’s not one you can start and read for ten minutes then set down and come back later, you really need a good half hour or so to get immersed enough to remember the characters when you come back.
There are a bunch of plots going on with most of them revolving around characters grasping for power – whether it’s the priests trying to get into court as the Seer, or the Jarls vying over the Lord Protectors title, most of what’s going on in the plot are power struggles between jarls, families, groups, and different realms.
The book is split into three chronicles and in the first gets you acquainted with many of the Jarls, get the general idea of the lay of the land, you’re introduced to the way the leadership of this world is set up etc.
The second chronicle focuses on another part of the realm and follows some different characters (priests of the temple of Hamaring and the Queen). Although there are some tie ins from the first chronicle, most of the second chronicle characters are new. Then the third chronicle goes back to the story you started out with and rounds off the story. The chronicles themselves are rather short but together it makes for a lengthy book of about 500 pages.
There’s back stabbery, warfare, politics on top of politics and strategy going on everywhere, there are so many Houses and families with their thanes and margraves and landgraves and knights and all that, there’s always something going on.
There are so many characters, my god. What may be confusing for some is how similar the names are to each other, it makes for good world building but sometimes confusing reading, I usually focused on the suffix of a name to keep things straight. There are too many characters to list even a quarter of them, but for instance: Athelbold is Athelgars father, Isenhart is Isenwalds father, so you get an idea of who the families are but sometimes I wasn’t sure which member of the family was speaking at first.
Since there are so many characters I’ll just point out a couple bigger players:
- The Quill – an older wiser mentor type, keeps the scrolls and libraries tended to and tutors a girl named Kate. Kate sort of works as a way to learn about the world through the eyes of someone being taught about it, sort of a classic student teacher narrative teaching you about the world you’re in.
- Isenhart – he’s kind of a douchebag, he doesn’t shy away from physical punishment for his own kin, and doesn’t value life very highly. He’s grabbing for power and trying to take advantage of the volatile situation the realm is in after the prince’s death and the succession thrown into question.
- Isenwald – Isenharts son and he has a possible betrothal to a rival jarls daughter Valerie
- Athelbold & Athelgar, Athelstan & Eudmund – relatives to the jarl Isenhart most of them knights
- Egil – The Quills apprentice, he was sent off at the beginning of the book to investigate the death of the prince to see if there’s more to the story. You also get some backstory to the world through this characters POV and get some interesting info about the elves.
- Aelfwine – he is accompanying Egil while they trek out to the spot where the prince was killed, knows a lot about elves.
- Theodora – The young queen, 16 I think, you see a lot of her in the second chronicle.
- Nicolas – an archer and winner of a tourney, you see a bit of the army through his POV
Extensive, I’m not even sure where to start, this is a fully living breathing world he’s created and the roots run deep.
There are little ceremonies and cultural tidbits throughout the novel, things like the Knighting ceremony, or how different areas of the realm have different ‘parting gifts’ whether it’s a knotted leather bracelet or bluebell flowers, every aspect of the world is laid out in detail.
You get to see a lot of backstory through Kate and some general knowledge of the world like their speech is known as Mearcspeech, or Adalspeech, or Nordspeech depending on who you ask and where you are – there’s a lot of that. If you’re in the north you refer to the leading priest as the High Priest, but in the south he’s the Archon, there’s just so many little details like that everywhere.
There are elves, and talk of dwarves and dragons. There’s healing magic, and telepathy and lots of other cool stuff going on.
The writing is pretty straight forward, there’s not a lot of flowery metaphors or tons of descriptions, and it kind of felt like being dropped into skyrim almost with Jarls and Thanes and all that.
It took a little while to get into it because you’re getting your bearings in the world, but once things start moving and Isenhart starts fucking with things and the outlanders army starts invading things pick up the pace quite a bit.
- For people who love detailed world building with moving pieces that all work together
- For people who like complex multi POV stories
- For people who like historical fiction
- For people who like Skyrim with elves and dwarves and talk of dragons and civil war
- For people who like more grey/neutral characters without a clear good or bad disposition