To end a civil war, Lansera’s King Turyn relinquished a quarter of his kingdom to create Medua, exiling all who would honor greed over valor to this new realm on the other side of the mountains. The Meduans and Lanserim have maintained an uneasy truce for two generations, but their ways of life are as compatible as oil and water.
When Vesperi, a Meduan noblewoman, kills a Lanserim spy with a lick of her silver flame, she hopes the powerful display of magic will convince her father to name her as his heir. She doesn’t know the act will draw the eye of the tyrannical Guj, Medua’s leader, or that the spy was the brother of Serrafina Gavenstone, the fiancee of Turyn’s grandson, Prince Janto. As Janto sets out for an annual competition on the mysterious island of Braven, Serra accepts an invitation to study with the religious Brotherhood, hoping for somewhere to grieve her brother’s murder in peace. What she finds instead is a horror that threatens both countries, devouring all living things and leaving husks of skin in its wake.
To defeat it, Janto and Serra must learn to work together with the only person who possesses the magic that can: the beautiful Vesperi, whom no one knows murdered Serra’s brother. An ultimate rejection plunges Vesperi forward toward their shared destiny, with the powerful Guj on her heels and the menacing beating of unseen wings all about.
Reading that blurb, I was very interested in this book. A multi-POV fantasy novel set in a different world with a unique belief system and an ancient prophecy that involves the protagonists – that is a concept I am fond of. But you know why I gave this book 2 stars? Because it disappointed me in all the points that I judge fantasy books on. It took me 10 days(!) to finish this 320 page book, which I felt was a lie because this felt like reading 600+ pages to me. I kid you not, I checked TWICE to confirm that it is indeed 320 pages (since I have an e-copy to read). Even 600 page novels haven’t dragged on as much as this one has, and I hate it.
Firstly, remember that unique fantasy world I was excited about? Well, I would have appreciated it a lot more if I knew what meant what. Within the first quarter of the novel itself, concepts, peoples and characters are dropped en masse, expecting the reader to know what they mean or who they are. And yes, I went to check whether it really was the first book of the series and I am not missing some important exposition somewhere. There is no glossary for the terms at the end, either! If you are going to introduce your own made-up words, at least give readers the courtesy of telling what they are through a glossary if not through the story. Basically, I was lost 50% of the time while reading this novel (the other 50% I was skimming through the text, but I’m getting to that soon)
The characters are, in a word, boring. Farrell tries to make them more than one-dimensional, but that effort fizzles out pretty soon. Vesperi felt like she might have some interesting POV to read through, but in second half it is mostly berating herself for becoming soft and blaming the Lanserims. Janto and Serra are yawn-inducing – honestly, if I was Vesperi, I would have smoked them into ashes a few days in. And then the plot tries a love triangle with these three, never mind that there was never any development on either side. I mean, I see how it would make sense (as a reader ruminating on the possibilities of the direction of the plot) but there is no actual plot to support it. Time jumps everywhere, so one scene Serra is nearly attacking Vesperi and a few pages later, she is comforting her. Character development, RIP, because your ghost did all that stuff in lost off-page time.
And as much as I crib about things missing from the book, I still don’t understand how this managed to be so long. It is a conundrum. I can’t distinctly remember what exactly made it so long, besides a vague recollection of some rite of passage, a bizarre initiation, some half-hearted backstory, and a ridiculous plan to take down a kingdom. The writing was also – uh, weird, is all I can say; when I try to visualize the scenes (as I often do), it became difficult to do so. The scenes were choppy, with no flow and the ending left me confused – WHAT ABOUT THE CLAREN? (I almost swore at this point) By the time the epilogue rolled around, I was like – what the heck, just end this book! Not picking up the sequel, because one confusing book was enough for me.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Meerkat Press, via Netgalley.
Content warning: physical abuse, mentions of non-consensual sex, mentions of torture