The first chapter promises the reader a fun high fantasy romp, there are nonhuman races, multiple kinds of magic, and pirates. I was intrigued from the start and wasn’t let down.
Zala and her husband have found their way onto a pirate ship as a means to an end to help her husband live just a little bit longer. He’s afflicted with a disease that starts turning people into stone, and there are rare and expensive ingredients in the medicine that slows down the progression. Things get interesting later when we get a different POV from the Empire’s perspective. They’ve built the first airship and are using it as a weapon against the pirates.
I’ve only read a handful of pirate books in fantasy, for whatever reason I just don’t come across them often. I liked that Zala was more relatable, in my opinion than many of the pirates I’ve read in other books. She genuinely cares about her husband, Jelani, they have a normal healthy relationship – some would even go so far to say it’s a sweet relationship for a pirate couple. She cares about her half-Aziza friend, Fon, and others she meets along the way. But, she’ll also totally kill your ass if you’re on the wrong side of her goals. She might feel a twinge of guilt about it, but she’ll do it. She’s not the best swordsman around, but she’s not incompetent either.
One thing leads to another and Jelani finds himself kidnapped by the Empire, while Zala has to contend with a new group of pirates after being shipwrecked on an island. There’s a lot of pirate drama, and all the while there’s the looming threat of the Empire to all pirates. You’re definitely supposed to feel sympathetic towards Zala and Jelani rather than the empire.
The world-building was neat, I didn’t find anything to be too over-explained, nor any long info dumps that took me out of the story. I felt like what was there was well developed, but I would have liked just a little bit more depth. I found a lot of things really interesting, and of all the critiques I could offer, wanting more is one of the better problems to have.
The writing style was such that the prose got out of the way of the story. I didn’t trip up on the dialogue, nothing felt awkward or out of place, and things flowed nicely. I listened to the audiobook so I can’t speak to any spelling errors or formatting issues the ecopy may have.
I found this to be a fun, enjoyable, quick read that would appeal to those who like pirates, epic fantasy, battle scenes, and a diverse cast of characters. I think the audiobook was well produced and worth your time if you enjoy audios 😀
Standard disclaimer: I’m not rating the books I read from other people’s batches because I don’t want there to be confusion whether this is an official score, I don’t want to raise or dash any authors hopes, either. My opinion is my own, and not an official SPFBO score