This is a book for people who enjoy reading fresh takes on old mythology. The world is interesting and well-developed, and it makes good use of the familiar creatures of legends of old while adding in new ones, too. This book is a Middle Grade book due to the age of the main characters, but they do not act like little children, far from it. It is, however, the descriptions that really give weight and emotion to this book. They are elegantly written and maintain the overall tone and feel of the setting effortlessly. This is an enjoyable, well-written book that has been produced to a high standard. It will appeal to all lovers of fantasy, mythology, and middle grade/young adult fiction, no matter their age.
This book settled into the MG (Middle Grade) or YA (Young Adult) genre due to the age of its main characters, and I have no doubt that will put some readers off. Don’t let it. The age of the characters is only relevant to a couple of small plot points. The characters themselves are mature and well-developed. They make decisions that fit in with the established personalities and backstories, rather than what the author thinks a child of that age would do. They’re interesting, and not only fit into the world but further the plot through their drives and insight. If you really boil it down, then, yes, they’re stereotypes, but when you boil anything down far enough it is. They are strong characters who are interesting to read and who add something to the plot via their viewpoints and actions. They’re exactly how characters should be.
The world and the descriptions of this book are its strength. The world is very interesting and well formed, making full use of old myths while also adding in new ones. The descriptions brought the world to life in vivid technicolour, which given that the world is predominantly grey was no mean feat! The world itself had clearly been well thought out and left plenty of room for the reader to insert themselves and mentally explore. There were no over-done, boring “big-bads”. The evil creatures had clear motives and personalities entirely of their own. They had a reason, a purpose, and the world had a clear impact on them. Just as it did the good guys.
The descriptions were all very well done, and they slipped seamlessly into the plot to add emotion and tension where needed. The author made good use of small details to give clear images that could spring to life in the mind’s eye. Instead of describing every little detail, he chose to focus on a few key ideas and characters, which left room for the reader to form their own ideas and images within the world. The description was written in such a way that it helped the pacing and didn’t hinder the flow in any way. Quite the opposite, it added to the broader plot and character development. On the topic of emotion, the author did that very well. There was enough to convey the huge weight of the situation and the overall environment in which the characters found themselves, but it all fit. There were no moments of foolish melodrama ‘just because.’ It gave a great sense of just what was at stake. At the weight the characters were all carrying.
That brings us to the plot, which was in some sense simple, but it is clearly the opening to a series and there is only so much complexity that you can add to this idea. That is, with the plot being one where things have been set in motion and there are only, realistically, two potential outcomes. That being said, this book isn’t simple. There are a lot of hints and ideas running below the surface that flesh out the overall book, which means that the reader is unlikely to notice the more simplistic nature of the broad strokes.
The plot, as mentioned above, moved at a pace that was ideal for what was being said and done. At no point did it drag its heels or forget to describe an important point. It was done exactly as it needed to be and it flowed very well. The flow wasn’t particularly easy to achieve, given the point of view switched between two characters, yet the hopping between them worked. The author managed to end each chapter at a point where the reader would know enough to satisfy them and allow them to step back to the other viewpoint, while still leaving more to explored. That meant that while the reader could stop at that chapter and return at a later date, the intrigue and need to know what happens next would likely pull them back in and have them read the next chapter.
Now, this book is the first in a series, and the ending does betray that. The book doesn’t stand alone, it needs the following books to complete the arc. That being said, the ending is still entirely satisfactory, and while it’s something of a cliffhanger, it works. The plot is left in a place where the reader can walk away eager to know more without feeling cheated. The characters and plot are moving into the next stage of things, so to speak.
All in all, this is a very-well written book with nothing more than a couple of typos. The descriptions are superb and really add weight and emotion to the book. The characters are well developed, strong, and intelligent. They refuse to fall into the usual holes of immature and contrived teenagers. The world is fantastic, as it needs to be to fulfil the interesting and increasingly complex plot. It’s a book that I highly recommend to all lovers of myth and fantasy, regardless of age.
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