This was entered into last year’s SPFBO and I read it as part of my grouping of 110. I’m getting down to the last few I still need to do from last year 😀 WHEW
Also, I read this book many moons ago…. and have since lost my notes, so, here it goes!
This is a multi-POV story that centers around a theme of vengeance ( the series name is apt). Each of the main characters has a grudge or an agenda of some kind that will leave another person dead if their plans succeed.
Endymion has been begrudgingly studying under a priest named Jian ever since he was left in his care as a young child. Despite living with Jian almost his entire life, the two never seem to connect or bond in a way you’d think after spending so much time together. It’s not a hateful or abusive relationship, it’s more of an “I don’t get you” kind of thing. Endy truly doesn’t think he would make a good priest, he doesn’t have a strong desire to help people despite being an Empath. Even though his mentor is fully aware of his pupils shortcomings, misgivings, and reluctance he still believes it would be in Endy’s best interest to join the priesthood.
Being an Empath is outlawed in this world and the punishment for sorcery is not just an execution, but to be burned at the stake. Of course, one thing leads to another and both of them wind up in prison for high treason against the emperor due to Endy being an Empath and encountering the wrong person. (Since this next bit is revealed in the blurb for the book I don’t think it qualifies as a spoiler) Endy soon finds out his parentage and it turns out he’s the hidden son of the last true Emperor. From here he needs to figure out what he wants in life and if that involves taking back his father’s stolen throne. I liked Endy’s chapters, it’s interesting to see how being an Empath affects him, especially in large cities where it’s almost too much for him to bear being around that many minds. He experiences small bits of relief when the city goes to sleep at night, but most of the time it’s extremely draining to be in tune with that many different souls.
Then there’s lord Darius, he’s the second in command and the usurping Emperor Kin’s “right hand man”. He’s trained himself for so long not to show any emotions on his face that he’s become deadened over time. He has a cruel reputation and people would advise others to burn at the stake rather than seek out Darius in an effort to save themselves. The Emperor killed his predecessor and it’s left him on edge, even after years of service he hasn’t totally earned the Emperor’s trust. Does he really want the Crimson Throne for himself? Darius has ties to Endymion and I enjoyed watching that unfold.
The last known child of the True Emperor is Hana, she’s hiding in her cousin’s rebel army which is plotting against the current Usurper Emperor. She has a weird dynamic with her cousin who is also known as “The Monarch” … they were sort of romantic with each one another with some sexual tension popping up – but they were also plotting behind each other’s backs. Both of these people want the Crimson Throne for themselves, but neither knows of the others full plots. Hana has to disguise herself as a man in order to be in this rebel militia, and it’s a big part of her life. She has to hike miles outside of the camp just to bathe, and it doesn’t help that her cousin intentionally tries to search her out to see if she’s hidden well enough. I found that her first chapters had a lot of references to her being a woman and how inconvenient that is for her and it was a bit more “telling” than “showing”. Or, rather, it was a lot of both – so it was kind of redundant at first but it’s not something that took away a lot of enjoyment.
I liked the world building in this one, I don’t often get to read fantasies based loosely on medieval china/japan. I liked that although reading isn’t totally commonplace, guards and people who would use writing and find it useful in their jobs do know how to read. There are lots of legitimate government papers and also many forgeries which adds to the complexity of people having their “papers”. I’m usually a fan of more intense magic and lots of fantasy elements going on all at once, but it is nice to take a break from that and submerse yourself into “magical realism” or “low fantasy” however you want to call it. As far as originality the setting was very different, but the plot was pretty tropey – there was enough of the authors own voice in this to keep it from feeling too familiar.
The pacing was really helped along by the prose, if you’re looking for a book that doesn’t bog you down with descriptions and overly flowery writing, this one will probably appeal to you. In the beginning I was trying to keep everyone straight, there are a lot of family ties and what not, and it took a little bit to see how they were all connected, but once I got about 20% into it things picked up and it was a nice medium pace with faster paced action scenes sprinkled in.
- Multi POV
- Female POV
- Female POV disguised as male POV in the military trope
- Non-western setting/Asia
- Low Fantasy/less intense magic
- Clear and fast-paced writing style
- Vengeance stories
- Hidden heirs trope
- Plot: 11.75/15
- Characters: 11.25/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 12.25/15
- Pacing: 12.75/15
- Originality: 10.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 78.5/100 = 4 star – recommended to target audience