After I had finished this book I went to check the reviews to see what other people made of this, and it turns out I will be the first reader review. The author left a slight self-review without a rating, that specifically stated this book takes a while to get into and can be “demanding” of the reader. I would absolutely agree with this, there was a ton of stuff to work through to make it to the halfway point.
As I read through the beginning I started to get POV fatigue. I don’t mind multiple POVs, but they need to be established entities in my head before jumping to someone else. I found that there were just too many POVs introduced too quickly for me to firmly get a grasp on what was going on. By 11% into the book, which was roughly 25 pages, there were about eight POVs plus a prologue POV. With each character just getting three pages to get to know them, what their arc may be, where they are on the world map, and why they matter to the story, it just wasn’t coming together. I kept getting hit with a new location, a new culture and a new person and with each subsequent POV my interest started to wain. However, with the couple pages I did get I was interested enough to keep going to see when these POVs would round back on themselves and the story would start to develop in earnest. The POVs started to form little groups in different parts of the world, and they did, eventually collide to form a more cohesive overall story.
The plot is dense, intricate, and complicated. There are many moving pieces and the world is thoroughly imagined. In the very beginning, the overarcing plot was hinted at in the form of a prophecy from a Dreamer. Jylia, one of the POVs, is a servant working for the Dreamer when something odd happens. He starts to wake up hours before he was due, and speaks about two people coming to their land. One will end their culture and the Dreamers as they know it, and the other has potential to heal and reforge their society. We then hop over to a Dwarf POV who is taking part in the start of a rebellion. The Dwarves have been subjected to being considered second hand citizens and/or slaves for generations – which is quite something because they are a long lived race. They are not naturally a violent and don’t want to live underground, they’ve been forced there by Men to mine and work as cheap/slave labor. They’ve had enough, and they are forming a rebellion unlike one that’s been seen before. Then there are the two people who are fated to change the world of the Dreamers, and we get their perspectives too as they set out from their homeland exploring what lays beyond the seas, now that the bone dragons of the depths have disappeared, an apparent unexplained mystery.
For how intense the world building is, I’ve got to say it was mostly showing and not telling. There were a few instances where there was a bit of exposition via dialogue, but the bulk of the world building is left to the reader to pick up on their own without overexplanation. I really enjoyed the Alythee culture, the lack of a beleif in a diety was interesting to me, instead, devoting their lives to the study of something specific. An element, an idea, an animal etc. They believe that the world’s mysteries can be solved. Sounds a lot like science.
The writing is definitely stylistic, and I think it would appeal to people who enjoy lots of adverbs/adjectives, metaphors/similes and personsifications. There were a few things that I caught that may have been caught in another editing pass. Eg: “Too much time on his hand” instead of ‘hands’. Every once in a while a more modern phrase would work itself into the dialogue, eg: “Seriously, Jylia, I am not asking a small favor”. It was oddly juxtaposed since other characters, especially the Dwarves, tend to speak in a formal way, sounding more like classic epic fantasy.
I think Fiaja was probably my favorite character, however, I feel like I never fully connected with any of them. For the most part, there wasn’t a ton of ‘inner voice’ where I could immediately tell whose chapter I was reading, there wasn’t a lot of in depth exploration of motives. There were also so many of them that I started to lose track of just how many there were. For me, this felt more like a plot-driven book, which is fine, many people choose that as their preference when I do my polls. I just happen to be a character person, if I don’t fully connect with the characters I can’t fully connect with the world, either. That said, I can see the appeal in a book like this, and it clearly took a lot of time and effort to bring together a world this expansive.
I would recommend this to people who enjoy classic epic fantasy, lots of moving parts, political intrigue, war, non human POVs, and intricate plots.
- Plot: 13.5/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 7/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 73.5/100 or 7.3/10 for SPFBO