SPFBO 8 Review: Metanoia by Juniper Lake Fitzgerald

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Hey guys, it’s time for another review from team Weatherdrifter. This book was originally in Kristen’s pile but she’s currently in the midst of a career change as well as selling a house while also moving out of state. I’ve taken this book from her pile to give her a bit of relief and here’s what I thought!

So I picked this one because it’s quite a chonk, and the synopsis made it sound complicated and dense — I was not deceived. This is a more intricate book with many different POVs and moving pieces to the plot. Something this ambitious easily could have flopped, but I think it stayed on it’s feet.

The book focuses on two sects/religions that do not play nicely with each one another. There’s a “main religion” referenced as the Temple, and that’s the religion that most folks believe. Then there’s an off set “cult”, and those people experience a varied level of acceptance in society, from warily accepted, to socially shunned, to hunted down and killed. You never really know what you’re going to get which makes being identified as a Cult/Sect member dangerous.

We get a POV both from the within the ‘Cult’ aka the Sect, and a foil POV, an assassin from the Temple who’s mission is to kill members of the Cult. There are other side POVs but these two people are the crux of the plot/theme which only becomes more obvious as the story progresses.

Ohkai is a ‘cultist’ and he gets visited by his gods all the time, much more than most people. When the gods pay visit to their disciples it’s referred to as a “calling”, and they are generally given tasks to complete, or messages, or something like that. Some disciples only get a few callings a year, while Ohkai is basically harassed. Ohkai is devout, he always corrects people for cursing the gods or speaking blasphemy — it’s hard not to be pious when the gods make you levitate, lol. Of his companions he’ s the more serious one while Loba is more care free. Loba is a side POV and I never really totally invested in his story since I felt like we didn’t get a ton of page time with him. He was fine enough, he’s meant to be the more jokester of the pair and their relationship grows and develops and changes all the way through to the end. The two of them care a lot about each other and that’s pretty clear from the start.

Then we have Velyr, he’s from the Temple and he’s sent to go kill random cultists that the Temple wants dead for one reason or another. He started training as a young kid. Growing up without parents, he was formed into the assassin he is today by the Temple and he’s never really given his allegiance much thought. There’s been nothing to challenge it so far. He’s never given an explanation to his instructions, just do this and shut the fuck up. Velyr is extremely sheltered, almost too much so to be believable sometimes. The Temple frowns on fraternization but he should at least know what it is his roommates are doing with the women they pick up at the taverns. His inner thoughts seem confused as to what they could be doing to make that much noise, and even if you don’t partake surely at some point you’ve got to figure it out? He’s just very naïve and also super dangerous, it’s a weird mix. He’s probably got the most dynamic character arc, he changes quite a bit from the start to the end. His growth and change was almost a little too fast for me. His whole world and perspective changes. I mostly bought it, it felt just a touch rushed. The experiences he went through were extreme and those can be formative, but he did a 180 when maybe a 90 would make more sense, and then later on do the full about-face, if that makes any sense at all.

The narrative prose was enjoyable, and for the most part I enjoyed the dialogue. There were a few times were it stood out to me as a bit unnatural and sounded a bit more like what you’d write down rather than what you’d speak, if that makes sense. But overall I felt it flowed pretty naturally. There’s a fair bit of cursing in this, and by the end there’s a bit o’ violence as well, so I wouldn’t recommend this for people looking for a lighter read.

The world building worked well for me when it was adequately explained. The nuances and motivations between the two factions of religions made sense and was clearly laid out. I felt like they both were built up and had depth to them — even if the Temple strayed into the excessively evil at points. The temple were brutal and callous even to their own kind, discarding the bodies of temple trainees as if they were worth nothing. I did like how the magic worked, there are limits and it’s possible to drop dead on the spot by using up all of your stores at once. Magic was prevalent throughout the story, it showed up in the first chapter and had a moderate presence throughout. I wouldn’t call it overwhelming for people who don’t like to be smothered with it. There were neat aspects like telepathy and a lot of mystery regarding the gods and what their intentions are for their disciples.

All that said, I felt there was a bit of an island effect. I knew a lot about certain topics and almost nothing about other really important aspects of the world. I know almost nothing outside of the cities this took place in as far other kingdoms, other cities, what the world looks like, or even within the cities this took place how they are governed, who governs them, and the economy is fairly vague, just things like that. I may have just missed things, but there are words like “ozone” used to describe smells when I’m not sure how this society would know about that — but who knows, they might. There was an underlying scientific attitude throughout the book, for instance, Ohkai took interest in some natural history books explaining the taxonomy of amphibians, or something like that. Electricity and static discharge were referenced as well, but it’s unclear to me how much they know and how they came to know it, like, just how far their technology has brought them and how far they take the scientific method. There are vague references to lost plants and animals species that people hope will one day come back. There are references to medicinal plants that won’t sprout — so it’s vaguely dystopian but I didn’t even learn that until like 70% through and I don’t recall an explanation as to why everything is changing.

Overall, I thought this was an impressive debut and I would recommend it to people looking for complex relationships and a plot that gets more epic with scope as it goes along. The ending is definitely a cliff hanger, so this is not a single serve book. In another year this could have been semifinalist material in the high 7’s, but this year my semifinalists hit the 8’s and so this one is a cut despite enjoying my time with it. If this review sounds good to you I encourage you to pick it up


  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 11/15
  • World Building: 11/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 75/100