I was in the mood for something about the undead… not something modern like zombies, but something more along the lines of necromancy fantasy. I already had this on my TBR and audible library and it sounded like it would fit in perfectly with what I was craving.
This book is mostly focused on the journey of the main character, Anskar, but there is a side POV that’s more of a plot B and the two don’t have a lot of interaction until the end.
Anskar is training to be a Knight of the Order of Eternal Vigilance. He’s been training in the order for as long as he can remember, he doesn’t know who his parents are and he ended up living with the trainees of the Knights. He’s seventeen now, and at the beginning of the book he’s gearing up to take a trial to see if he’s ready to join the order for real. The trial has a series of tests of different skills to see if the trainee is worthy of being a Knight.
Carred is the leader of the Niyandrian rebellion, she’s taken up her dead Queen and lover’s cause to free the Niyandrian’s and win back the land that was taken from them. Queeb Talia is thought to have taken sorcery down a dark path and created an army of the undead…and in the end she blew herself up with an incredible show of magic to try and save her people. The Niyandrians lost the war anyway, and are now either enslaved or treated as third-class citizens. They are considered dirty, barbaric, and beneath contempt. There is a sharp contrast between the two cultures… the Niyandrians take a lot of lovers and have sex out in the open… whereas the Knights are punished severely for transgressions and sex is considered a taboo subject. The Knights have a sort of Catholic-esque religion where they believe in confessions cleansing the soul, piety, being humble etc. Sex and sexuality play a supporting role throughout the book, it’s kind of always there whether it’s being disparaged or encouraged… honestly I wasn’t a huge fan of that. It was oftentimes awkward… and there was one scene where Anskar was asking a woman to stop, that he didn’t find it funny she had tied him up… and then they ended up having sex anyway? I felt like it was a setup for a rape scene, and then it turned consensual which was a bit jarring.
Anskar is a very religious person who takes his God and his promises to said God seriously but he’s found out through the trial that he has access to something known as the Dark Tide and Dusk Tide…. which are different channels of magic. The Knights naturally only want their Order to use the Dawn Tide. Anskar is also deeply racist, he’s totally bought into the idea that Niyandrians aren’t “people” and should be grateful for the mercy of his people and that they are saving the Niyandrians through conversion. It makes him a pretty unlikeable character through much of the book. He has to deal with the fact this his Order may not really be what they say they are, and maybe the Niyandrian’s don’t deserve to be enslaved.
Corred has been visited by a Wraith that tells her that Queen Talia has an heir, and she’s set out to save her. Meanwhile… all the Niyandrian girls who match the age of the heir are being rounded up and killed, enslaved, or sent to the Order to be brainwashed.
The first half of the book was pretty slow. I think a lot could have been cut from the trials because they didn’t end up being as important as you’d think for the page time it took up, but the back half of the book was super quick. A little bit of re-arranging or cutting/adding from certain spots could have evened that out a bit.
The prose/writing itself was easygoing and flowed naturally. I would say this is a kind of book where the prose gets out of the way of the story rather than being a highlight – which is just fine depending on your preference, I don’t always want something poetic and flowery. The dialogue was well done, I never felt like it was over the top or thought to myself “who says that?” like I do with choppier back-and-forth between characters. I think things got a little predictable sometimes, but I was surprised a couple times throughout the story when certain characters bit the dust.
Overall I liked this book, but maybe I wasn’t the perfect target audience. I feel like I’ve read many books very similar to this and because of that it didn’t quite pull me in. There were a few other things as far as personal taste as well. I was not a fan at all of how the love interest showed her interest and how that relationship worked out in general. I’m not known as someone who really loves romances, so take that as you will. I liked the back half of the book a lot more than the first half, there was more going on, more undead, and it took a darker tone than the beginning.
I think this will appeal to people who are into the classic tropes… and maybe not to people who are tired of them. Anskar is an orphan of war, living with an Order that adopted him, there are training sequences, magic learning, mentors, dead parents, bullies among his peers, a forbidden love interest, hidden heirs etc. There’s a lot of magic that kept things interesting for me, and although I wish the undead played a larger role, I think this book was a setup for a lot more to come.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 11/15
- World Building: 11.5/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 7/15
- Personal Enjoyment 5/10
Final Score: 68/100 or 3.4/5 stars