I knew right away this was going to be a book I was going to enjoy. The prologue was brief but also written in a way that made an impact. I felt for the characters within a few pages which isn’t easy to do. For bonus points, the consequences of the prologue were immediately relevant to the story – it irks me when it takes forever for the prologue to become relevant.
The king in this story is an asshole, he’s a tyrant of the worst kind. He doesn’t care who he kills as long as it benefits him in the end, and it doesn’t matter if he desecrates their bodies post-mortem either. Their culture believes that to bury a body is to bury the soul and it’s an extreme violation of their religion. It’s typically a punishment reserved for only the most heinous of criminals…. but the King will bury whole villages of innocent people – men, women and children.
This king had a son who died trying to assassinate him, and the sister, Elenor, is then captured by the rebellion. Elenor knows all of the people who were in the rebellion and her heart is crushed because she feels betrayed by friends she considered as close as family. She’s extremely reluctant to believe that her father would be capable of the atrocities her friends are just now telling her about, and she keeps trying to escape despite the rebellions good intentions for her. They want her parents dead and to put her on the throne… and she’s fighting it the entire time.
There is a pretty broad cast of characters, I liked most of the side characters and for the most part they felt well fleshed out. I would say without a doubt though that Elenor is the main character and everyone else is just in her orbit. Elenor is a little haughty, but also brave and snarky. She’s struggled through a lifetime of pain, her legs don’t always work correctly and at times the pain is so bad it’s made her wish her her own death. She’s a young woman so she’s not as experienced and as worldly as some of the other characters, but she can learn quickly. She’s also fucking infuriating because the reader knows that the rebels are the good guys in this story, and she keeps trying to work against them and thwarts them in ways that lead to tragic results. But, you can also totally sympathize with her. Most people wouldn’t just stand by and let people kill their parents, even if they were terrible people. It makes for a really compelling tension between characters and brings about questions of morality and whatnot. These are the kinds of stories I love.
Daemon is a mysterious character, and he’s also deadly. He’s probably over 500 years old, but no one knows how he makes himself live that long. He has made himself a little island and tries to keep out of the way of politics but doesn’t hesitate to kill people, either.
There are a handful of other characters with varying degrees of page time, as well as some interlude chapters that take a while to connect to main story. For the most part I felt like they were well fleshed out, the ones that didn’t get a lot of page time, like North, were hard to get to know since they are featured briefly and only every once in a while… but over time with enough chapters I got to know them better. That said, for as many characters as there were, the story didn’t become unfocused or meandering in the way that happens sometimes with large casts. A surprising amount of side characters died over the course of the book, packing punches the whole way through.
The world building is expansive and most of it was delivered naturally without info dumps or awkward dialogue. It’s difficult to do that and I always admire a slow reveal of a huge world that’s clearly well thought out. I also really enjoy the politics and backstabbing and high stakes.
One of the things I didn’t totally care for was the romance between a couple of the characters. I’m not really one for sex scenes… they just don’t do much for me… I tend to skip over them when I’m reading but since I was using audible I didn’t really have that option. Obviously this is a personal taste thing, so your mileage may vary.
The writing was great, it got out of the way of the story, it didn’t meander and get overly descriptive, the dialogue sounded natural and unforced, making it feel polished and well edited. This also has a lot of real world cursing and didn’t have much in the way of in-world fake cursing, just my kind of book.
The pacing could be slow at times. Elenor took a long time to gather evidence and weigh it and make a decision she felt was right for herself, her family, and her people – but it took a long time to get there. It did give it a realistic feel to it, and it gave Elenor a chance to explore her own morality and sense of justice and honor which was neat to see. I did feel like it dragged a bit between 60-80%, there were some setting changes for certain characters and whole new aspects of the world opened up. On one hand this was neat, on the other it slowed me down because it was starting over with a new culture and society.
This was an engaging read that I will be recommending to a broad audience. I feel like it has something for everyone while avoiding a lot of pet peeves (at least mine, anyway). I’ll definitely be picking up more by this author. The narrator was new to me, and I’ll definitely be looking for more books she’s performed, she did a great job.
- Tropes: Rebellion, Tyrant King, Forbidden Magic, Lost Bloodlines
- Tags: Dragons, Political Intrigue, LGBT (f/f) relationship, Disabled MC, Bisexual MC
- Genre: Epic
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final score 81/100 or 4/5 on Goodreads