I picked this up for a few reasons. Mostly because I’m in an enormous reading and reviewing slump and I haven’t been able to finish a book in weeks or months; I’ve lost track at this point. I keep starting, stopping, and DNFing books that should appeal to me. I went to this book because it’s written by an author I almost always enjoy, and it’s narrated by one of my top ten favorite audible narrators, Tim Gerard Reynolds.
This is a world dominated by the landscape/environment of this world. The trees are almost the size of mountains and they are big enough to harbor full-fledged cities up in the canopy. Society is governed by a strict set rules and guidelines based around birth order and clan. The first borns are the heirs, and IIRC the second born are warriors, third born are workers, fourth born are healers, fifth born… I can’t remember, and on down the line. So therefore, the order in which you are born and the family you are a part of are paramount to your stature in society. There’s no wiggling around it, either. You’re branded on your face with both your class and rank within your class. At a glance people can tell where you fit into the society and how to treat you.
Well, enter our MC, Tarkosi. He’s a third born “worker” class. He hates it so much. His father is a disgrace, he was supposedly responsible for a lot of bullshit and ended up being murdered for his troubles, leaving his wife and kids alone in a world where they are now disliked because of him. Tarkosi has always felt like he was meant to be in the sorcerer class, casting magic and being kind of a big deal in this world. Instead he finds himself flailing from one worker class to the next, getting kicked out of every apprenticeship/job because he just sucks at everything.
Once upon a time it was said that demons came to fuck shit up every 9 seasons (IIRC0, and the trees would up and move themselves away from the hellfire. Well, a long time ago that stopped happening because some ancient hero put a stop to it. Demons have now returned after ages of being absent and fallen into legend…. and then one gets stuck inside Tarkosi’s head. This is a big deal for a lot of reasons, but he has to keep it a secret or risk being executed or jailed. Since demons were thought to be fairy tales to scare kids, people in this age don’t understand or have much knowledge of them. Tarkosi finds himself in a spot where people are likely to behead him first, ask questions later about how and why a demon was in his head. The demon is pretty typical demon. Fuck you, fuck this, burn for all eternity, I hate you human scum. Actually there’s no cursing in this book, it’s all in-world cursing. You loaming, loamer? So, the demon in his head is the daughter of the king demon and she loves to tell him how all the humans are going to burn and be eaten and all this jazz. The longer they are bound the more entwined they become, though, and personality traits are starting to pass back and forth.
So yeah, basically the book is about demons coming back and Tarkosi needing to solve his demon in his head issue before it’s too late.
Demon side effect: magic. Tarkosi also now has magic he can’t explain and could lead to people figuring out his secret. So there’s a lot of training sequences and learning how to magic and all that jazz. I was sort of torn on Tarkosi as a character. He did a lot of dumb stuff and didn’t seem to really think through most of his situations. He also was just kinda…dumb? For someone who wanted very badly to keep the demon in his head a secret or risk major consequences, he sure did talk to ‘himself” A LOT, out loud, where other people could hear him. He almost got caught all the time. He meant well. He’s not an asshole, but he does start to get a bigger head as his powers settle in and he gets used to wielding them. Overall I guess he was okay, and I did want him and his friends to succeed.
So, the writing was fine. I found it flowed pretty quickly, but the pacing was kind of slow for me starting around the 50% mark and going to about 75% mark. I think this is when the training sequences came in and there was a slow build up before things kicked off again. This may also just be a me thing, as stated before, I’m in a major slump. I at least didn’t DNF this.
The world building is expansive, there’s just a lot going on and since it’s such a radically different secondary world there’s a lot of tree-based culture stuff, like how the jails grow over and encase prisoners in living tombs, the loam/ground is super dangerous so it’s become a curse, most tribes take on the names of birds etc.
As far as the magic, it’s elemental, and typically requires a catalyst. In this world it’s called Nectar, I think. (forgive me, I took 0 notes because I’m an idiot). It’s something you drink and turns your eyes blue and then you cast magic. Earth wielders being the most common with earth being the easiest element to bend to your will. Air is next, and more difficult still is water. It’s next to impossible to make water do what you want it to only a few magic wielders are able to master it. Then there’s fire. Only the ancient heroes and demons are known to have fire magic. Well, this is another way that Tarkosi stands out, because his demon inspired magic requires no nectar like everyone else, so he’s a bit ostracized. He’s also got a pull towards fire even though everyone tells him he’s nuts. He goes through a lot of training since he was supposed to learn this shit at 5 years old but was instead put into the worker class.
The magic is big scale, there are hoards of demons with magic wielders of their own and they have come to Tarkosi’s world to harvest their shit because their world is dying. Demons are warriors, battle and death are just a part of life for them. They’re fairly one dimensional in that way. Like, yes they are here because their own world is dying, but I kinda figure they would do it anyway out of fun just the same.
A lot of information was delivered via info dump in dialogue. It’s really not my preferred way of getting told information, but in this instance there were a couple things that made it more tolerable. It wasn’t told to me straight up front before I would care about the world — I did get to know the characters first before most of the info dumping. And secondly, it at least made sense as to why the info dump was happening. Sometimes characters are telling themselves things they should definitely already know and that drives me up the wall.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book. I think I did it a disservice reading it while I’m in this kind of a mood, but I need something to get me out of it, lol.
- Plot: 10/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Enjoyment: 7.5/10
Final Score: 75.5/100