This is a story about how characters from across a world from different walks of life end up tangled in each other’s lives… and by the end, no one is happy and many are dead. This is one of the darker books that I’ve read this year, and I very nearly put it down because I wasn’t in the mood to be bummed out. There’s a theme that’s mentioned several times that, “people get what they deserve”, and when the characters are various shades of grey, getting what they deserve isn’t pleasant.
Josten Cade is an exiled soldier, he got caught fucking the wife of someone higher up in the ranks and got sentenced to death, but managed to escape. Now he and his rescuer/best friend just sort of roam the country side… but they happen to cross paths with another one of the characters, Livia.
Livia has been living with an older man (not actually related but paternal), she’s recently come to find out that she can do magic but she doesn’t know why. Since magic is outlawed, and those capable of wielding any sort of power executed, this has left her in a dire spot when she accidentally performs magic on a local boy. She gets capture and that’s where she runs into her rescuer, Justin Cade.
Caleb was forced into a slave-soldier type lifepath… he was sold as a young kid and trained for ten years to become an elite warrior. Along the way he saw his friends beaten to death, whipped to death, starved to death, and in the end of their training they are set to battle each other to the death. Like, jesus fuck.
There’s another character, Silver, who fell from the sky as a burned husk of a human being. She should have been dead in a hundred different ways, but manages to heal in a matter of days and is one of the strongest people on earth. She has no memory of who she is, where she came from, or how she survived a fall from the sky. She is linked to the other POVs but it takes a while to get there.
The point and overarching plot of the story didn’t become evident until later on as well, which honestly made the pacing drag for me a bit. I kept wondering what the point of all this was going to be, but there was one by the end, whether you like it or not depends on how you feel about depressing endings. I
I guess if I had to pick a favorite character it would probably be Josten. He seemed to have gone the furthest on his path to “redemption” and was a character I could root for easily. I fould Silver’s character interesting but I wasn’t all that emotionally invested because she was such an extreme character. A lot of various characters are having sex with each other, but I had little to no interest in that because it came so early in their relationships it almost didn’t make sense. I had no investment in their relationship since they barely knew each other and before you knew it, most of those relationships were over.
The prose was alright, I thought the dialogue was realistic but not necessarily very engaging. There wasn’t a ton of time spent on descriptions, which is nice for me, and I still felt like I had a handle on what the world and people looked like – bonus points. I can’t visualize things well in my head, so I respond better to vague big picture summaries than I do detailed scene building.
The tone of this book was fucking bleak, and it just kept getting bleaker as the story wound on. Whoever you like is probably going to die, and rest assured it likely won’t be quick and painless. The characters that survive will probably be broken husks of who they once were. There are kids sold into slavery, forced to kill each other, and subjected to all sorts of horrors and hardships. Kids frequently die on page and in terrible/tragic ways. There are characters that you may care about that get tortured on page as well. There are also worse things than death in this world… Gods can take over people’s bodies and force them to do terrible things. Many characters die in this book, and it’s not always the ones you’d expect – which kept a certain level of tension maintained from beginning to end.
I’m going to go find a nice warm book to cuddle up to after this one sucked my soul out.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 12.5/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 12.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Final score 77/100 or 3.85/5 Stars on Goodreads