“Just because something has always been done does not mean that it ought to be done.”
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 creeping 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 sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, 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 is one of the best fantasy I’ve ever read. This is Lord of the Rings level epic, but feminist. Women are real people in this book, not just damsels, not just fighters, not just a symbol for something else. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re evil, sometimes they’re just a little selfish. Like humans are. All of the characters are just so interesting and complex. While we get the POV of only a few of them, all of these characters feel real, with rich inner lives, struggled, strengths, weaknesses.
What I admire most is the world building. There’s such a rich world between these pages, such a wide world, too. It’s not just one kingdom, but almost a whole planet, every wind direction has a part in this story. There’s also a deep and rich history, full of legend and myths and facts and religions. The cultures of every country are so well thought-out, the cities and villages and towns so realistic that I can see them, feel them, smell them. They’re so clearly a product of its people, while also clearly influencing the people. All so rich and unique.
The writing was also absolutely beautiful. So often I had to just stop and stare at a sentence for a while because it was so beautifully crafted, so precisely done. “And when the dead lay at her feet, she looked up, tasting iron, hands glowing in wetness.” Hands glowing in wetness, what a detailed and gruesome image Shannon manages to conjure up. The text is rich and full of detail, but nothing ever feels over saturated. This makes the the book slow, but personally I love that. It’s not an action heavy fantasy, but it’s full of beautiful world-building and and meticulously written, slow burning plot.
I don’t think I can express enough how much I enjoyed reading this and how much I admire the craft that went into this book. In my eyes, it’s perfect on every level.
Trigger Warnings (CONTAINS SPOILERS): alcoholism, blood and gore, violence, death, torture, war, murder, plague, infertility, miscarriage, suicide ideation
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