I am so, so ridiculously late doing this review, I think this is from last year. So sorry to the author for such a delayed review 🙁
This one has a glossary and a prologue at the start of the book which gives you a good idea of what to expect. I’m a fan of glossaries, I’m the kind of person who flips to it from time to time while reading to better understand what’s going on. I really like it when they’re in the front just because I sometimes forget to look in the back since they’re not always included.
This was heavily based off of two very old Chinese novels, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin – I haven’t read either of these so I can’t compare, but it’s interesting to note for those of you that have. The prologue is a pretty big info dump if you don’t mind getting all the context up front and then heading into the story you might like it. If you want to discover the world for yourself and skip the info dump, it might annoy you.
In the prologue you’re told that there were once three kingdoms, The Northern, the Middle, and the Southern, and the First Vargassian Emperor did the unthinkable and united them. They have their own distinct cultures where the northerners are miners, middle kingdom people tend to farm and the southern kingdom being made up of islands – lots of pirates. No one has ever successfully conquered the southern kingdom by force.
At the start of the book, the last Vargassian Emperor has died, and riots are breaking out everywhere. Casper is a coup leader who’s tracking down the rightful heirs to the throne, a son and a daughter. If he can’t catch the son alive he’s determined to have him executed. He wants to place his own pawn on the throne, one that’s malleable and easy to control. His fall back plan is to marry the princess once she “becomes a woman”, I wasn’t much of a fan of this character, and wasn’t pleased to see him rise through the ranks to become a member of the Council with more power than he should have. He’s ransacking cities, looting and pillaging and being an all-around asshole. The story also follows Ilana, the elf, Brokk, the dwarf and the crown prince Hector as they try and escape from Casper’s assassins.
There were elves in this, they are scholarly folks who tend to keep to themselves in the woods in the western region of the continent. Their numbers suffered a lot when the Orcs waged war on them years ago. There are dwarves, and vampires and a god called the Lord of Darkness. There’s a lot mentioned but there wasn’t a lot of depth given to them, outside of some cursory notes about each species there were no real mentions of culture or differences between them.
The writing style is something I had to adjust to, there was very, very little dialogue. It read almost like a biography/history book because no one was speaking much to each other, the events were all laid out in narration and things moved very fast. The chapters were only about a page or two long telling snippets of the story from different perspectives and locations. It honestly was a little hard to follow since there were a bunch of names being thrown around but I didn’t know who they were since there was no introduction or time spent getting to know who was who. This felt like a very old school storytelling style that’s more like a play or a dramatization of historical events. If it was an homage to ancient texts, I can see why it was written that way.
I’m at a loss on how to rate this because it’s so radically different from anything else I’ve read. This is a love letter to the very, very old school kind of storytelling, it’s much more about the plot and the ideas behind them than it is about characters and their growth.