I think this would appeal the most to people who enjoy classic coming of age stories in a high fantasy setting. It’s centered around a young boy who developed the ability to use the Nether and channel it, marking him as a sorcerer. The world is very wary of sorcerers and it’s possible that he would have been killed based on his abilities even though he was just a child. His parents, simple farmer folk, sent him away to an academy that teachers him the art of magic in a way that society approves of… being that they never learn how to cast spells that cause harm. Sanctioned magic is strictly to be used for healing and serving the community… this rule even extends to animals – sorcerer’s can’t hunt even without using magic.
The main character, Cally, doesn’t quite understand all of the rules he’s strapped with, but does adhere to the big ones, like not killing people. He is thrilled when he’s told he will travel with a group of elders to a meeting between different societies regarding the titular, Sealed Citadel. Sixty years ago, the Citadel was swarmed with the undead and it was since sealed. The person who sealed it perished, taking with him the secret of how to take down the wards around the Citadel. Cally is traveling with his teachers to go speak to another kingdom about unsealing the citadel and destroying the undead within once and for all.
I think the main character was pretty standard for his age without becoming overly angsty or naïve. He did grow quite a bit over the course of the book. I wouldn’t say that I loved him, but I did enjoy his character which is more than I can say for many coming-of-age characters. I think I liked the story and the world surrounding him more than the Cally himself, though. I like old fashioned high fantasies with lots of magic, and I liked how this was neither hand wavy magic nor hard magic system, but a nice compromise in between. I’m also a sucker for healers in general, as it’s always the class I play in MMORPGs.
There were a few info dumps, and some of the times the dialogue explaining some lost history got a long and my interest started to wane. That didn’t happen too often, and most of the world was unraveled organically. I do like the race of nomadic giants and their hidden stone passages. I see a lot of elves and dwarves and demons but I don’t often see giants or troll like species. I don’t know why, but I haven’t grown tired of the undead trope either, so that will almost always engage me when I encounter it. I was pleased when the wights became more and more predominant as the story continued.
The pacing was okay, this isn’t a long book and there’s not much page space taken up by descriptions or flowery language. The writing style is very breezy and allows for fast reading. The story itself is also fairly straight forward and easy to follow along, it makes for a good audiobook experience. There are a few times where I felt the pace drag a bit, at least for me, because I’m not a huge fan of traveling scenes from one place to the next. The plot really kicks into gear around 20%, so you don’t have to wait long for the story to get the point.
This is another one of the audiobooks I picked up just because it was Tim Gerard Reynolds narrating, and he does not disappoint. However, there must be at least a dozen instances where the audio quality shifted and sounded different from the majority of the narration. It was probably due to post-production additions or edits, if that makes sense. The quality would change for 15-20 seconds and then go right back and after a while it became distracting.
Overall, this was a nice way to ease back into reading since I’ve been sick and my brain was in a fog. I sat and colored and listened to this on audio and enjoyed myself enough to look for other works by this author who was new to me for this book.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7/10