Released by Tor on July 3rd, 2018
Available for purchase on Amazon
I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me...
Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.
But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.
This is a unique book. Many fantasy stories deal with all-out wars and very overt aggression. This story, while it did featured a siege, was a lot more concerned with subtle aggression - poison, political intrigue, spying, etc. And that made it very interesting and unique. None of our characters are paladins or warriors. In fact, they can barely hold weapons some of the time. Our main characters are much more concerned with learning about poison and finding hiding places to spy on people from. They aren't effective in the ways some fantasy characters typically are and I found that change refreshing and interesting.
The world in this story was really unique in some regards. The main city comes from a matriarchal society - women bear children and those children remain part of the woman's family. In fact, it seems that marriage is not a concern in this society at all - when a woman gives birth, there is no concern for the father and the children are raised within the large extended family. That was very unique and I wish this had been a bigger deal in the story - it's mentioned in passing a few times and comments are made about how weird it is when people leave their families (their aunts and uncles and mother, etc) to start their own family (two parents and children). Perhaps in future books, this will be addressed in more depth. The rest of the world was interesting, but not all that unique or significant. There are guilds that basically run the city. There's a lower class that's been treated unfairly by the ruling class and they want change. The "magic" system was interesting, though as a religion (which it is), it isn't that unique. But regarding it as magic makes it more interesting. Overall, it was an interesting world in so many capacities, but a fairly typical fantasy world in other capacities.
The main characters were the one part of this book that I didn't like. While most of the characters were written in interesting ways and had some personality, the two main characters just felt....meh. Our two main characters take turns narrating and there was nothing about their views of the world or their narrating voices that helped to tell them apart. Often, I'd have to go back to the chapter heading to remind myself who was narrating currently. I should have been far more attached to the main characters than I was and I should have been able to get a sense for their personalities and their wants and needs and interests, but most of what I learned about the main characters were things they revealed about each other - i.e. "Jovan cares so much about Tain," "Kalina is sickly and weak and needs me to take care of her," etc. There are ways to reveal your character without making other characters do the work of explaining them and I wish these characters had more clear personality.
Overall, this is a rewarding and interesting read and I'm excited to see more from this author.
Have you read this book? Are you interested in reading this book? What do you look for in a fantasy novel?