Crilyne is a Shade, an immortal being and one of only seven of his kind left in the world. At the beginning of the book he’s waiting for his ‘charge’ to show up, a girl he’s set on protecting even though she’s very prone to getting herself into dangerous situations. She’s one of a kind, extremely powerful, one of the only beings powerful enough to kill Crilyne, but she’s been gravely injured and he knows it. He’s been tracking her for a lng time and when they finally meet Z is almost on her deathbed, she’s feverish and has serious wounds but refuses to see the healers. Before Crilyne is able to figure out what he wants to do, an unwelcome visitor stops by to see Z. Nivarados is a Dragon, an exiled dragon at that, and one with very few scruples or moral hang ups. He’s been known to leave piles of bodies in his wake for no particular reason and has a reputation for being a hot head. Crilyne doesn’t understand why he’s shown up, but he doesn’t want to let him anywhere near Z. Things aren’t working out in Crilyne’s favor however because Nivarados gets past Crilyne and enters Z’s room where she’s resting and trying to recover. Miraculously, the dragon is able to convince Z that she needs to go see the healers despite her hatred of their kind. Z ends up getting healed but also winds up in a fight with the Mithane, a ruler for another species of immortal beings who healed her.
This is a book that works on massive timescales and huge stakes – many many millennia ago there was a mass extinction event, where nearly of the flora, fauna and sentient life forms were wiped off the planet. It’s believed that only Z can prevent it from happening again, so unlikely alliances are forging. Several bickering kingdoms are coming together to try and fight the impending doom, but one of the countries, the Tenians, think that everyone else is over-reacting or scheming to take over their lands the moment they evacuate. The Tenians aren’t doing anything to prepare despite the warnings, and the enemy will be at their gates within a matter of weeks.
Cryline has lived for so long that mortals lives and deaths mean little to him, with the exception of Z. He’s killed millions of people and it hasn’t crossed his mind that maybe he should regret it. He’s had one hundred and sixty millennia to perfect his magic use and he’s gotten quite good at it.
I didn’t find myself warming up to Z, I thought maybe I would as the book went on but she was a pretty aggravating character. She makes a lot of very unwise decisions knowing full well that they could have disastrous consequences, she’s stubborn and difficult to work with and in general, has a bad attitude. Z isn’t without redeeming qualities however, she belongs to a group known as the Rangers who work to keep the world protected, it’s an honorable goal and she doesn’t do it for thanks. She technically has the Dragon locked down in a life debt since she’s saved his life multiple times over, but doesn’t want to cash in on things like that. Speaking of the Dragon, my favorite character was probably Nivadros, the exiled and hot tempered dragon. He tended to be sarcastic and bounced well off of Z giving entertaining dialogue.
The world building in this is intense and expansive, the timescales alone are staggering with Z having traveled back in time 150 millenia, and Cryline being about that same age. There was a mass extinction event that’s cycling back around that killed nearly all life on the planet – the fauna, the flora and the sapient beings. They speak of it as the era the world was “remade”.
This read a little slower than the other books I had for SPFBO and it’s due to a few things. The beginning was mostly build up of characters and world-building, the only plot point for the first 15% (60 pgs) was that the main character was injured and needed to be healed. The writing style took me a while to get used to as well, there were some scenes I had to go back and re-read to make sure I understood them correctly. This was partly due to awkward phrasing, and also partly due to wild world-building concepts that took a minute to register. There’s also a lot of heavy world building, names that aren’t familiar, and huge time scales so it took a while for me to get my footing.
As far as the writing goes, as I said earlier it took me a while to adjust to it, but once I did it got easier to follow. Instead of cursing the author would say something like ‘she used colorful curses in 72 languages’, which is funny once or twice, but that’s how cursing was explained every time so it got a bit old after a while. There was a lot of repetition when it came to describing Z’s character, everyone who dealt with her made several mentions of how difficult she is, or how willful she is, so it felt a little like getting hit over the head with her character traits.
Despite its drawbacks, I want to emphasize that I liked this book, it had a ton of imagination and original ideas which matter to me as someone who reads 200ish books a year. It gets a little numbing reading similar versions of a story over and over. The world building was fresh and extremely expansive, it’s clear a lot of work went into it and I always find in-depth world building impressive. I wish I liked the main character more but there were side characters that grabbed my attention and helped balance things out. This was an extremely ambitious debut novel and I’m impressed it came together as well as it did since there were so many things to juggle.
- in depth world building
- non human povs
- large time scales
- time travel
- lots of magic
- female mc
- long lived species
- Plot: 10.5/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 9/15
- Pacing: 8/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10