This is the second book in the Broken Mirrors series, which is closely tied into Sufficiently Advanced Magic/Arcane Ascension series. If you haven’t read Forging Divinity, I would start there and probably skip this review as it will be spoilery.
I listened to this on audiobook, which was narrated by the wonderful Nick Podehl – but that does mean my spelling is going out the window.
There are two main plot lines running simultaneously within the same city that sort of splits up the main characters.
Talien and crew are training at the Citadel of Blades, they are taking 7 different tests to determine their eligibility to become a Paladin. It will also determine what God they are chosen to serve under, and although Talien is powerful these tests prove to be a struggle. They aren’t just testing his combat ability, although that’s part of it, they are also testing his personality, his leadership ability, strategy under stress, knowledge of history etc. Talien finds himself coming up with plans he thinks are brilliant, or at least worthy of passing, but he is toeing the edge of getting kicked out almost the entire time. I actually really enjoyed the fact that he didn’t just breeze through all of his tests and things all fell into place neatly. He’s sort of an overpowered hero because of his sword, but he’s falling behind his friends at the academy due to poor decision making.
Meanwhile, there’s been a murder in the city and the victim is the son of an incredibly powerful sorcerer in the Theas family. This is a family name that runs through Sufficiently Advanced Magic so it’s a neat tie-in. The murder could only have been done by a very powerful person, someone with enough strength and bond to the poison dominion to create a fist-sized solid crystal of poison dominion, creating a fist-sized crystal is tough to do for dominions that are naturally in a solid state – poison is usually gaseous. Lydia and Jonan team up to try and track down what’s going on and who could possibly be behind this – if they don’t find out in time there could be disastrous consquences when the head of house Theas finds out about his son.
There are a few characters from the last book that get greater depth and more page time, and there are some brand new characters as well. I think my favorite new character was Asphodel, she’s from an elusive race known as the Dalarans, and they have unique crystalline hair that helps them bond to Dominions. They’re reclusive now because in the past they had been enslaved and bred specifically for their hair. Asphodel is known as “The Oracle” and has visions of the future, people around her also tend to have prophetic dreams. She’s one of few words, but she has a pleasant enough demeanour, it’s her guards that are abrasive and rude.
Vaelis was also fun to get to know, she has a unique ability to defend herself against sorcery. She’s able to channel foreign magic, poison, or even alcohol out of her body. She once won a drinking contest by making a small cut in her finger and draining all of the alcohol out as she drank it.
I thought the world building was well done in this book just like the first one. In particular, some of the tests Talien had to go through were historic battles or events – so the reader gets to see past events first hand rather than a long info dump.
The magic system gets explained in more detail, and there are expansions on how many different humanoid races really do occupy this planet.
All in all this was a strong second book, and I think I liked it more than the first probably because I’m such a sucker for magic/military academies.