This was a quick read that I was able to get through in one sitting since it’s a novella and pretty short. The story revolves around a woman who was captured three years ago and forced into servitude to those known as The Bright Lords. These Bright Lords are able to enslave people completely using collars that are essentially mind control devices. Once someone puts them on, they are bound to their Lord or Lady in a unique way – all doubt, fear, and anger and other negative emotions are completely erased. They also are granted power and strength by their master through the bond and are able to fight in ways they shouldn’t be able to on their own. They are able to hear their master’s voice in their head and call it ‘guidance’, and they are utterly unable to resist the will of their masters. However, they’re relatively happy about it all.
At the start of the book Irina was rescued by her friends who are able to use a special knife that was able to cut away the magical collar. Once released Irina wasn’t entirely sure if she was happy to be free again, she had a yearning to go back, and missed the power that was transfused into her through the collar. However conflicted she was, she still agreed to flee with her old friends to try and get to the border and into safety. They are chased by demons, there are ogres in the woods, there are brigands and all the while they are also being chased by Irina’s master who wants her back.
There was actually a fair bit of world building in this which was surprising given how short it was. There are mages, ogres, demons, etc – so it’s pretty clearly high fantasy. I would have liked to see a lot more of where the Bright Lords came from, what the backstory is on how they came to be, what was meant when it was said the Bright Lords were sent to keep the demons at bay, how they make the collars, why they enslave people – there are a lot of things that were interesting that I would have liked to see expanded upon. However, this is something I nearly always say with short stories or novellas. I feel like they are teaser trailers to a world I want to see the full length movie.
The pacing was pretty break neck, there was something major happening in every chapter, and it didn’t leave a ton of room for character development. It took me until nearly the end of the novella to really get to know the main character, and the side characters never truly got fully developed. This too is a frequent thought I have when reading a shorter story. I do have to say I really liked how it all ended though, it had a very open ended and yet satisfying ending.
There was just a couple grammar and spelling mistakes, a word that was supposed to be “now” was changed to “how”, but otherwise the writing was clean and solid. I wasn’t always a huge fan of the dialogue, but it wasn’t enough to detract or distract from the story.
Overall, I would recommend this to people who like high fantasy, plot driven, very fast reads. This could definitely be used as a nice palette cleanser between epic tomes. I’m hoping that the author will write something a bit longer, or maybe a sequel novella to expand on the world that feels like it has a lot of potential.