Blurb from Goodreads:
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
This book has dragons! And dragon riders! It has a world divided not just by vast seas but also by beliefs and religions, a cast of characters that ranges from golden-tongued rulers to feisty slayers, and an interesting magic system. There’s enough dose of court politics, fearsome beasts, and deaths of good characters. And let us not forget how diverse this book is.
But it requires a ton of patience to finish. Here’s why:
It moves at a snail’s pace especially on the first half of the book. I understand that this could be because the author is building the foundations of the world and developing loads of characters during this part. But things only started to get interesting at around 60% of the book. And that is a pretty long wait. If I were a less patient reader, I might have put this down in favor of another book way before I get to the juicy part.
This book’s world is vast but there wasn’t really a clear picture of what it looks like. Some of the characters did a lot of travelling, and I saw that as a chance to get to see more of the other kingdoms. I was hoping to see what it’s like for ordinary people in Yscalin after the Draconic army has taken over their land. I wanted to see what Hroth looks like. I wanted more history from The Empire of the Twelve Lakes. And I wanted to see more of these kingdoms’ different traditions and find out what other differences they have aside from their clashing opinions about dragons. But none of that happened. The characters just traveled from one kingdom to another, and that’s it. Which is largely underwhelming.
No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.
This book has loads of characters. So many that it gets difficult to remember who’s who. And while it has a good representation of queer relationship, the characters all felt flat and distant. I haven’t really formed any attachment to them. They all have tasks, ambitions, and jobs that puts their lives in danger but I didn’t find myself worrying about them. Even the deaths of the characters that I started to care about felt cold and hollow to me.
“We may be small, and we may be young, but we will shake the world for our beliefs.”
The story is told in four POVs. Each perspective is interesting in different ways. But each of them also has chunks of boring pages in them. Ead and Tane’s storylines are my favorites. Though it’s disappointing that we did not experience enough mage fights or dragon riding. Even the dragons barely have scenes! Of the four POVs, Niclays’s is the weakest. It felt like a filler. Like he’s there to just stir some things for the other characters.
“The one who wears the chains is a thousand times greater than the one who wields them.”
The ending is a huge let down. For 700 pages every character had been dreading the return of the Nameless One. Seven hundred slow-paced pages of them preparing for an epic battle, and I plowed through all that only to find a not-so-epic battle that was quickly over. All those pages of slow build-up and suddenly things are written as if in a rush, making the ending so unsatisfying.
There are parts of this book that soared and are pretty enjoyable but most of it just feel like a chore. This is not a bad book though. I just feel like there’s so much more that could have been done with this setting. And honestly, I think this is unnecessarily long with over 800 pages!