This review contains some spoilers. The first half of the review will not contain spoilers, and there will be a warning before the spoiling occurs. So don’t get mad at me!
I began this book after unpacking the last box of books (five months after moving – oops) and arbitrarily chose this book out of the stacks of books in our basement. This is one of the many, many books I’ve received from my father (thank you Paul for supplying the bulk of my book collection and allowing me to simultaneously read all the books and yet not purchase any of them). Okay, the book review. Well, maybe a summary first.
The book follows three protagonists – a young woman in the slums of a big city, a military leader moving up the ranks, and a protector of the tribe that shields them from all manner of creatures. Sarine is a young woman with magical powers and an invisible lizard friend, living in the impoverished slums of New Sarresant. Erris is a promising officer in the New Sarresant army, also possessing magical powers, alongside an extraordinary mind for strategy. Arak’Jur is the defender of his tribe, killing any creatures that come too close and acquiring a new gift from each new creature, by their blessing.
The book follows the three of them as they go about their lives. It becomes evident pretty early on that there are some things a-brewin’, demonstrated through some fancy mystical visions and the arrival of new characters who cause, but not quite wreak, havoc in the towns and fields and forests. Each character faces a sort of enemy, some faceless, and some too close to home.
The history and names have a definite French flavour, and a definite real-history flavour – everything takes place in New Sarresant, the capital city of the Sarresant colony across the water from Sarresant (aka North America). There are some red coats and some blue coats, some colonizing and war over territory, some Indigenous peoples outside a wall, the whole deal. Now, for future reviews, particularly those that are Fantasy books, you should know that it is sort of a pet peeve for me when books are obviously based off a certain country or history or culture that exists in real life. It doesn’t deter me every single time I come across a book like this, but it does bother me just a little. In some cases, like in Soul of the World, the real-life borrowing is pretty peripheral to the storyline, which is nice. It provides a solid basis for the plot, giving readers a quicker idea of the context than what a wholly new world might offer, particularly for those who just dabble in fantasy.
I give this book about a 6.5 to 7 out of 10. I’m reading the next one in the series (trilogy?) next, which I think promises to be a really good book.
Okay, now for the actual review part, which will be containing some spoilers.The writing for the first few chapters was a little difficult to read at times. The overall writing quality improves with the book, but I struggled to get past the initial lackluster presentation. Each character is from a pretty different world from the next, and the author presents each personality and world well. I feel that each character has a different voice, which sometimes doesn’t happen, so that’s a point. I was particularly mindful of the presentation of Arak’Jur, and the Indigenous themes in his world. I’m satisfied with how Mealing went about the unique cultures and differences between the tribes and didn’t get too white-gaze-ish on me. Now, I have some issues with a servant that pops up right at the end, but we’ll get to him. Minor detail.
The author’s plot style is appealing to me. I prefer my books to have minor climaxes and build up to a bigger one at the end with some twists thrown in. The middle section of the book didn’t feel too long or too boring for the most part, but I feel could have been cut down maybe just a smidge. I particularly liked the interludes that divided the book up, especially the point of view presented from God’s Chair, where their gods reside. I particularly liked some of the concepts presented there, like the woman frozen in ice that they seem to feed off. It was an especially interesting little break from the normal narrative, and I enjoyed it. A+ on that part. I liked the diverse characters presented throughout the book, and a variety of them had some nice character development without taking the focus away from our top 3.
The real climax began about 65-70% into the book, which was the ideal time. It didn’t feel rushed or like it wasn’t fleshed out to the same extent as the rest of the book. There was a plot twist at the end, where the ice woman turns out to be Sarine – I was intrigued. There were a few actually, but I won’t delve into them. Suffice to say, the epilogue provided more captivating details than the first few chapters of the book combined. This gives me hope that the second book will be properly good, and I am planning to read that next, amidst the two audio books I’m in the middle of!
Started 9 September 2019
Finished 5 November 2019
(be nice to me I work full time and do school full time and life is HARD)