I received a physical copy of this from the author – thank you! I’m trying to build up an entire bookshelf of books sent to me by authors so I love it when they send me stuff 😀 I had read The Grey Mage for my 100 SPFBO book challenge last year, it is connected to this series, but this series stands on its own – you definitely don’t have to read that first to understand what’s going on. However, the MC of that book is a player in this one as well, so you will have a more background on his character if you’ve read that first.
Bellaydin is a young man, a young human man growing up in an elf/Eldara society. He’s seventeen, both of his parents are dead but no one has told him how or why. He feels he has this lost connection with his homeland and his family that he’s dying to know more about, but his questions are always shunted aside. He’s been adopted by his half-sister’s mom, Seagralanna, who also happens to be an Eldara. The Eldaren society doesn’t look kindly on relationships between elves and humans, and they certainly don’t like the idea of someone being a part of both running around in their kingdom, so as much as they don’t like Bel, they REALLY don’t like his sister, Pol. By Eldara standards, humans are considered ugly, pitiful, and beneath the Eldara’s notice. One of the Council members, Illevios, takes particular offense to Bel’s presence and makes as many digs at Seagralanna as possible, especially during Council meetings.
Both Bel and his sister Pol want to leave the Aspen Kingdom in search of a life where they could be accepted and live a normal life. However, Seagralanna is having none of it, she thinks they’re too young, too vulnerable, and the world too dangerous for them. When an ambassador from her homeland comes to visit the Council and ask for aid, Pol stows away on his ship when he leaves, only to have a rude awakening that she isn’t wanted there, and is nearly tossed off the side of the ship. When they finally come into port, she’s in a kingdom that resembles ancient Egypt. The rulers are known as Pharoah’s, they are considered more like Gods than Kings, and the climate is dry and hot with lots of sand. While in the city she gets cornered by would-be murderers, they had her on her knees with a crossbow pointed at her, but somehow she manages to light them all on fire. That had never happened before and she didn’t even know that she was capable of spell weaving. She caught the attention of Aelzander, the archmage that advises the Pharoah, and he takes her on as an apprentice.
Meanwhile, Bel is still back in the land of the elves, and things are getting intense. A stranger approaches Bel and tells him that he’s in danger. He had never met the man before, but he seemed to know everything about Bel’s life. It really creeps him out and he tries to back away, but the guy tells him he needs to leave the land of the Elves and hide, because he’s the Heir of Lydin, and the cult of the Horned God is coming for him.
There’s a bunch of POV’s, so it’s hard to tell the whole story here, but there’s another POV, William, who is Bel’s and Pol’s cousin. He’s an Earl in the human lands, and he’s convinced they are about to be invaded by their rivals to the south. The people of Gorrinchia fervently worship the Horned God, are responsible for many assassinations, and every few years they try and raid Emparia without success. This time, however, William is getting an ominous feeling that things are different. There are strange murders happening, and a build-up of tension on the border with the Gorrinchians not seeming to fear any retribution for their raids. William suspects that their growing confidence could mean unseen forces working in favor of the Gorrinchians, and that maybe the next time they attack they won’t be put down so easily.
There’s a ton of world-building in this one, you get to see so much of the world because both of the kids are traveling, but not in the same direction. There’s a lot of thought put into the nomenclature as well, but it can get confusing because family members all have similar names and some of them can be quite long e.g. Seagralanna and Seagras. This is a very old school mystical kind of book, there are Seers, warlocks, dragons, crystal balls, spells, wizards, elves, lizard people etc. So, if you’re looking for a ton of fantasy races of all kinds, this one would be for you. Some of it can get a little info-dumpy, when Pol is studying under the Archmage she gets short history lessons and things like that, it wasn’t so bad though because it makes sense within context, and the dialogue was broken up rather than long paragraphs of monologuing.
The writing itself was fine, but the book needs a bit of editing because there are a bunch of quotation marks facing the wrong way, letters dropped off words, and periods in the wrong places. It wasn’t so bad that I was really distracted, but I did notice it when I hit them. There wasn’t any cursing in this, so if you’re looking for ‘cleaner’ writing or something suitable for a younger audience this could work.
This is a slower burn kind of book in the beginning, it takes a while to get to know a rather large cast of main characters and side characters that all get POV’s, and sometimes it can be a while until you round back on certain POV’s so it can be a little jumpy in places. However, for the most part, you know the characters that are being introduced later on so it’s not a feeling of starting all over again from scratch, you’re already aware of who they are and how they probably fit into the story. By around the halfway point things really pick up and it’s a fast read from there on out – it’s also not terribly long with the physical book being 380 pgs.
All in all, I feel like this was an improvement from Grey Mage and I really liked seeing Aelzander again – I liked him a lot in the first series.
- elves/lots of fantasy races
- lots of plotlines
- heavy world building
- multi pov
- high fantasy
- non human pov
- Plot: 11.5/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 10.5/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10
Final Score: 75/100 (3.75/5 on GR – recommended)