A Fantasy Book Review
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, AdultPublisher's Blurb:
Publisher: DAW (February 5, 2008)
Paperback: 576 pages
In the High Kingdom of Danton Aurelius, magisters from across the known world are gathering for an unusual meeting. The High King’s son is dying of an apparently incurable wasting disease, and he has charged them with providing an explanation and a cure. There is a mystery here, but not the one the High King thinks: the magisters know the cause of the prince’s illness but they dare not reveal it for fear that it will expose the secret at the heart of their order. No, the mystery is not what is responsible, but who. . .
Now the magisters must embark upon a manhunt, racing against time, before the High King learns the truth. But they have not counted on the young prince's determination to control his own fate, nor on the existence of Kamala, a young woman schooled in their own arts, who will soon shake the world to its very roots.
I love dark fantasy and I love magic that comes with a price. Here I got both and in spades! Imagine a medieval type world where magic is fueled by one's very life force. In the case of witches (refers to both genders) the cost is the shortening of your life; how short depends on how often and how much magic you use. In the case of magisters, the price is even higher (not going to tell you how, that would be a spoiler!). Instead, I will just say that the potential for moral dilemmas is endless!
The premise is great, the worldbuilding is suitably dark and definitely medieval, and the characters are believable. The pacing and the cliffhanger ending are my only complaints with this book. The first can be written off to it being the first book in a series. As for cliffhanger endings, they are a tried and true device for keeping readers coming back for more. They are also the reason why I tend to buy books only after the series is complete.
Aside from that, C.S. Friedman does everything right. Worldbuilding is done through the eyes of the characters, not in mind numbing info dumps. The POV is from multiple characters so you get a good view from different perspectives. It was actually a refreshing change. I have been reading alot of very well done single first person POV books lately, which really pulled me in on an emotional level. I am not sure I could handle that type of intimacy with this story. It is way too dark. She also creates another of my favorite things, a story that makes you think. Could I do that? Could I live with that? How would I handle that same situation? As much as I adore total immersion when I read, I equally love books that make me stop and question. Her characterization is not bad either. Could have been a bit better maybe but that is limited some by using a multiple PoV style of writing. In my layman's opinion, this story is more plot driven then character driven.
There are too many characters to cover effectively. You have Kamala, child prostitute who is determined, no matter what the cost, to develop her powers and escape her horrible childhood. You have the sick prince, who is determined to discover the source of his illness, or die trying. You have an insane king, powerful magisters, an abused queen and a host of other characters both major and minor. All are interesting and all add their own unique views to the story. This is the perfect method for telling this tale because you get to experience just how blurred the line between right and wrong can get when viewed from all sides.
As far as content, I have to go with adult. There is rape, death, and dark magic. There are horrible monsters, deep moral dilemmas, child abuse, insanity, and war. Aside from the harsh realities of the magic system, there is a much greater evil awakening in the north which threatens the entire world. This is also a male dominated society, one where women and children are often treated very badly. Actually, this is one of the main focuses and one that adds even more of a challenge to the female protagonist, Kamala, as if she needed more challenge then she already has! If you like your fantasy dark, where the line between right and wrong is blurred, where cost outweighs benefit, - or should - and where sometimes, there are just not any right answers, you will love this book. I know I did!
Shelfari Rating 4/5
Librarything Rating 3.91/5
Amazon Rating 4 out of 5 stars
(36 Customer Reviews)
What Should I Read Next?
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Other Reviews: (Some with mild spoilers but more plot detail)
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