This was a semifinalist over on FBC but it’s also been on my review request list for a while. I’ve read Riddle’s works before and enjoyed myself, so I was looking forward to reading this one. The cover for this is eye-catching, I don’t typically put a whole lot of stock into cover appearances, but this one did grab me before I even opened the book.
Right away you know this is a high fantasy world, there’s talk of fantasy animals, and otherworldly landscapes and non-human species. There’s a lot coming at the reader all at once but after the first chapter or so for each character things smooth out and it was quick reading from there on.
There are two main POVs – Kali is a trader who goes between cities to make a buck off of potions and other items. She’s not rich but she gets by just fine, however, there’s a new potion on the market and it’s making what she usually trades obselete and now she could be in financial trouble if she doesn’t figure out how to get her hands on this new potion. I liked her character, she was easy to relate to, easy to root for, she had a good healthy family and an animal companion/mount. She also is species known as a faif, with pastel colored skin, bright red hair, and she ‘feeds’ herself using the sun. She’s like a plant, she likes sugary water and can go for long lengths of time without eating any solid foods. I loved the imagination in this one, it was overflowing with new ideas and fanciful creatures and races.
The other character is Puk, he’s a down on his luck addict who gets fired from his acting troupe. He keeps showing up to performances blitzed out of his mind, and his troupe finally had enough of his bullshit when he spews vomit on the crowd and passes out. From there he sort of wanders around aimlessly until he runs into Kali. Her father is a very kind hearted man and takes pity on Puk and has him perform in their inn while he gets back on his feet.
The potion that Kali is trading in is a treatment for carapace rot – there’s a species known as the centripts and they are a bug like species with thoraxes and carapace… there’s a mold that can infect their carapace and they slowly rot to death. It’s pretty terrible, but this new potion works much better than the traditional medicine and could be life changing for many. The centripts also have unique and pretty awesome sounding architecture creating cities that are contiguous architecture and known as ‘hives’. One of the other cities was built inside an enormous skeleton from a long extinct animal known as an aeon. It’s a fully fleshed out city, not just a small grouping of houses, so it sounds like this animal was several miles long.
The writing was great, Riddle’s work is always clean and polished and reads very quickly by themselves. However, it took a long time to get this story going, it was about 35% when the two POVs meet and then it still took some time for them to set out on their mission. This book has a long set up and it’s the surreal world building and ease of the prose that kept me going, not because the plot was particularly interesting up to that point.
All in all this was a solid read and I’d recommend it for people who enjoy high fantasy, multi pov, non human pov, clean writing, and one of the more original reads you’re going to find out there. If you go to Goodreads and see that it’s the second in a series, don’t worry about that – I haven’t read the first in this series and I didn’t struggle with it at all. I assume this means they are stand alone books in the same world, but I’m not certain.
For those following my reviews I’ve been omitting scores on some of my reviews for books that are in SPFBO this year. However, since this book was eliminated I’ll go ahead and drop a score for it 🙂
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 15/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10