The main character, Bartholomew, is a 17 year old heretical monk. He’s a follower of Saint Dorian, a young man with an impossible talent on the flute. Dorian is claiming to be a Saint come to earth and is said to be performing miracles. Believing in Saint Dorian isn’t a small indiscretion, it’s considered blasphemous and Bartholomew was put in jail, but escaped with the help of a witch. Ruth came to him while he was in prison with a bargain; tell her all the wisdom he’s learned as a librarian, and she will help him escape and guarantee his safe passage to his destination with her magic. Bartholomew was once honored as a librarian, and despite his heretical status, is often still referred to as the Librarian. He’s got a lot of knowledge to share but Ruth’s questions are wide ranging and usually bizarre. Ruth is indeed a powerful witch, she’ able to cast fireballs n’ such which is pretty handy since he’s definitely not the warrior type — and so they set off on their journey. I liked the dynamics between Ruth and Bartholomew, and the challenges they faced weren’t just physical/environmental, but basically everything Bartholomew believed in and was taught gets challenged at one point or another.
There’s a lot of lore and a ton of world building in this, some of which was touch info dumpy in the forms of plays or in-world stories. However, it felt very much more like a deliberate stylistic choice and so it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does. There are two gods known as Ael and Ariel, and Bartholomew has been taught to hate Ariel since she’s known as the goddess of chaos but that begins to be challenged as he befriends a talking cat named Valentino. The magic is whimsical and not at all a rigid magic system and is based on elemental magic like earth, air, water, fire etc.
The writing style was very old school and formal, especially when it comes to the dialogue. I’m not typically a fan of that style of writing and unfortunately it didn’t work for me here. Speech patterns that rarely use contractions and sound flowery to the point of sounding more like written word rather than spoken just doesn’t gel with me — this is a pretty clear personal taste thing, so take it as you will. There were also some repeated words and phrases that started to rub me the wrong way despite it sounding deliberate instead of an editing error. For example, the phrase “men and women” was used 142 times, instead of just saying ‘people’ or something else every so often to mix it up. I am very sensitive to things like that, and the greater the frequency the more it will get under my skin. There were also a bunch of copy edit errors that wouldn’t necessarily get picked up on a spellchecker.
Ultimately, I had mixed feelings about this one, but I definitely feel like there’s an audience out there that isn’t me. This is a slower burn philosophical book, which I can absolutely enjoy — but paired with some writing style choices it just didn’t work for me. I would recommend this to people who want something that feels like a classic fantasy story with elemental magic, great world building, and well written characters.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 11/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Enjoyment: 5/10
Final Score: 70.5/100