I received a hardback copy of this signed by the author – thanks so much! I read and enjoyed Souls of Astreaus by this author which is more of a science-fantasy, so I was interested in seeing what he would with a more conventional fantasy story.
The book starts out with a first-person telling of the main character’s backstory (the writing switches to the third person after the prologue). She’s a young girl being dragged up the side of a mountain by her mother with no explanation. She’s being lead to a site known as the Vacant Grave, where people who are deemed “unworthy of remembrance” are buried. She’s lead down into the depths of the tomb and forced into a blood ritual, her mother ends up dead while she’s mutilated and cut apart. Her mother, like her mother before her, had been bound by a blood oath made many generations ago when the Voidwarden helped their people survive the wars brought on by the now extinct Nurunians. The Voidwarden tells Julurra after the ritual is over that one day she too will take her daughter down into the depths, and perform this ritual over again – or else he will destroy her people. It’s a traumatic incident that sets the tone for the book.
The first chapter is set many years later when Julurra is confident in her title as Queen, and is self-reliant and capable of defending herself. There was an assassin sent with a dopplecharm, a charm that creates a ghost of vengeance which imprints on the killer of the wearer of the charm. It’s a rare and complex charm that must mean there was good money behind the assassin, somebody who wanted to make sure the assassin would succeed. Jularra couldn’t find any identifying marks on the body, no papers or emblems, so she’s at a loss at who sent the assassin.
Jularra is facing a lot of problems in her reign as Queen. Her country is falling apart due to a food shortage, the granaries are depleted and her people are starving. She’s forced to take her country to war to raid for supplies. On top of that, she only has 1 more year to produce an heir that will be old enough by the time the next ritual needs to take place to appease the Voidwarden. She can’t find a suitor who would want to marry a cursed Queen who will willingly sacrifice herself and curse their own daughter to do the same. To complicate things further, she has to deal with the assassination attempt and figure out who sent him and why – and more importantly, how he had access to powers great enough to create the doppelganger ghost.
Jularra can be hot-headed and take her anger out on people as well as execute those she feels deserve it. But, she also wants to do right by her people, she genuinely worries about their safety, their health, and well-being. She tends to second guess herself, always wondering if she’s making the right decision. She’s easy to relate to sometimes but can go to extremes that make it difficult to get in her headspace.
There are lots of fantasy elements in this book right from the start, so it’s very clear from the prologue that it’s a high fantasy story. Magic in this world is fairly mysterious with long incantations/spells that can do a wide variety of things – from making shields to harnessing nature, to making ghost doppelgangers to avenge your death. Magic is becoming less and less prevalent, with many of the magic users doing it for material gain and not out of benevolence, with even fewer that possess any kind of great power.
Jularra is able to speak to entities known as the Gift Gods, they tend to appear to her after a show of power, they give her small gifts with symbols engraved in them. When she uses a particularly powerful illusion spell a Gift God gives her a small golden object with the symbol for mirroring.
This was pretty fast-paced, there was a lot going on from the very beginning and it doesn’t let up. Although the writing can be descriptive, it isn’t often flowery so that helps keep the pace even and smooth.
Overall, I feel this was an improvement off of his last series. I felt I had a better understanding of the world and how it worked, and the writing itself flowed better. However, there were a few questionable scenes that made me raise my eyebrows and seemed jarring when compared to the tone of the rest of the book – most notably a scene involving a growth spell that caused a 60-inch penis… it was a punishment… it’s a long story. Read and find out 🙂
For people who like:
- lots of fantasy elements/high fantasy
- female pov
- queen pov
- lots of action
- city raids and war
- grey characters
- creepy demons
Not for people:
- Who don’t like cursing
- Who don’t want to read about sexual assault/attempted
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7.25/10
Final Score: 75.75/100