Thiiisss is one of those reviews that I let slide for way too long, I do apologize to the author as this was an author request. I’m still playing catch up a bit, but I’m getting through my pile!
I listened to this on audio, but I went ahead and bought the ebook as well to snag some of these names because there are so many. I’ll save you some time, if you only want either the ebook or the audio, do the ebook. I say that for a couple of reasons, the narrator has a super deep resonating voice and that rings through all of his male characters, it makes them sound kind of the same and it can get confusing when the pov’s switch, and they do that a lot. Secondly, there’s just so much to take in, this is an enormous book and the audio would be much better suited for a re-read.
This is a book of epic scope and it’s been a serious challenge trying to string it all together into a review. There are at least 4 different locations for over 10 POV characters and it isn’t clear how those POV’s were going to be related to each other through much of the book, they were their own separate worlds operating outside of one another through much of the book – to make it more complicated I can’t even really nail down a “main character”. So, here it goes!
Sacral is a city that had been teleported out of existence by it’s ruler and goddess, The White Mother. This had been a gift, not a punishment, they were taken into an other worldly realm outside of the planet to be granted 1,000 years of peace, but everyone knew of the fabled return to the land their ancestors once called home. The beginning of the book coincides with Sacral’s return to the world, and what that means for the kings of neighboring realms.
Sacral’s ruler is king Ansyl, an archmage that’s been ruling over the city for centuries under the guidance of the White Mother. Shortly after their return, the city is visited by a nation from Aboleth begging for their aid. Their homeland was being ripped apart by inhuman monsters and they’ve run out of places to turn. The White Mother supports them and instructs the king to send out his best men to go and fight the problem. Ansyl sends out a commander named Jenus to lead a team of mages, Chosen, and the military elite to go deal with the problem. This leaves Maura and her husband nervous because the city is losing most of it’s defenses. They are assured nothing will go wrong, but many, many things go wrong. The city gets attacked and what remains of the city guard and military are overwhelmed by the onslaught. Maura rallies the citizens of Sacral around her with makeshift weapons and start to build defenses around their homes – they then start kicking ass and taking names.
Over in the realm of Bialta, a young girl named Nial was beaten near to death by her father. When she approaches the point of death her soul meets a demon in the dark, and the demon convinces Nial to let herself be bound to the demon. When she wakes up afterwards she has entirely new powers and the two ‘girls’ are merged into one entity with both personas taking turns with the control over the girl’s body depending on which one of them was needed for the situation at hand. The girl and the demon, Zuli, start sacrificing people to harvest their souls – because Nial is young and mostly innocent, she refuses to take part in murders of innocent people, so they start to prey on the scum of the city.
Salt was a sailor who visited the wrong prostitute, she turned out to be a demon and after a night of exhaustive sexual excursions he wound up in the middle of a ritual to harvest his soul. It was stopped mid-way by the cities Night Guard, an elite fighting force that’s capable of dealing with demons. Shortly after he was recruited into their ranks and is now helping the Night Guard search for the person who is leaving mutilated bodies all over the city with dark magic residue (that’d be Nial’s doing).
Meanwhile, in a different part of the world a man named Carver is making obsene mutated animals from his test subjects. He’s working for a man named Drokga who is a tyrant ruling in Tolrahk Esal. He’s a power hungry man who wants to be a legend, he’s not happy that he’s feared and commands respect now, he wants that reputation to carry through the ages. Carver makes warped versions of dogs, horses, people, dragons and other things to help build up this nutjob’s army. Carver himself is cruel and sadistic, but not in the way I usually see. He doesn’t take pleasure in making people hurt, he just does it out of curiosity, he likes knowing what makes animals tick and he likes taking them apart. This is still just the plot and I’ve only just barely scratched the surface, this is an insanely intricate book and it took a long time for these POV’s to start to have meaning to one another.
I think my favorite character grouping was Nial, Zuli and Skeg. Nial and Zuli first approach Skeg out of a business arrangement where they would give him bodies to sell and in return they would have a safe space to perform their rituals and also get taught what magic Skeg knew on the side. This morphed from a cold and distrusting business arrangement to a family like atmosphere, Nial even started calling him uncle after a while, and there was genuine affection flowing from both sides. It was a warped fucked up family of murderers who really cared for one another. Weird, but it worked for me.
Carver was an uncomfortable POV for me to read about, animal abuse is one of those things that really makes me squirm and it happened a few times here. There are also slaves where Carver is living and their lives are atrocious, this POV brought out the darkest aspects of the book and put them on display.
I had some problems with believability in Maura’s POV, she goes from housewife, the a commander of a small army, to being pushed to be a Queen in a very, very short period of time, a few days at most. She was an interesting character though, and I enjoyed the fact that she was already married and in a very healthy relationship with her husband. Her husband Beren was a runesmith and very good at his trade, if he wanted to be rich he could have but instead he paid his workers well, gave them good benefits, made fair trade deals etc. So, they didn’t end up living in a mansion with people waiting on them but they were both happy with their lives despite all that and preferred it that way.
The worldbuilding in this was super intense, there are so many cool ideas and neat sorts of magic I won’t be able to name them all. There are handfuls of mages wandering around the world at any given time, and they all tend to specialize in a particular aspect of magic. Fire magic for warlocks, teleportation, necromancy, healing magics, rune magics etc. There are ants the size of dogs that build cities and castles for kings. There are
Although I liked the writing, I had a lot of problems with the pacing. There were so many POV’s that just kept coming and coming with many of them not related to one another and with no clear relation to the story when they are introduced, and some of them are introduced pretty late in the book as well. It makes for a book that you need to have a little patience for, it takes a while for everything to come together and start to build a bigger picture. It also takes a very long time for POV’s to circle back around and sometimes I’d forget what had happened, or I’d be invested in one person’s story only to switch over to a different POV.
This was a very ambitious book, when I looked up the author I was surprised to see it was a debut. I think that at 500+ pages and everything it tried to do it was an impressive first book. It needed to be reigned in a little bit in some places, and it nee
- multi pov
- epic high fantasy
- lots of magic
- posessed pov
- in depth world building
- longer books
- super-powerful mc’s
- NOT for people who don’t like cursing
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 10.5/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 8/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7.25/10
Final Score: 72.25/100 or 3.61 recommended for target audience