I saw the cover of this book, the size of it (657 glorious pages), and I thought ‘this looks like a proper fantasy book’. And oooh my god, it is!
The kainen’s kingdom of Eledore is under attack by the Acrasians, a human race that has long been oppressed by the kainen’s natural talent for magic. But as the Acrasians become stronger, developing advanced weapons the Eledorians can’t match, Royal twins Nels and Suvi fight to protect their country: Nels, always an outcast due to his lack of magical ability, joins the Eledorian army while Suvi, the heir to the throne, becomes an admiral in the Eledorian navy.
This book has it all. Cloak-and-dagger, guns and cannons, magic and battles, assassins and intrigues, soldier’s banter and a full scale invasion. Like a high fantasy book it is, and the book delivers on everything it seems to be. Halfway into the book I was absolutely immersed into the story, catching quiet moments to read a chapter or two, dying to throw myself back into this marvellous world.
The three main characters in this book, Nels, Suvi and Ilta, a healer, are incredibly well written. Flawed and wonderful, you watch them grow over the course of the books, make mistakes and learn from them, slowly finding their own place in the world. Like any fantasy book, this one throws an incredible amount of names at you, but with this story I found myself actually keeping track of the characters, remembering names and matching them to faces. Even though the amount of characters is staggering, I wasn’t at any time confused who someone was, or didn’t remember where I’d heard that name before, and that alone is incredible.
The military in this book seemed wonderfully well researched, and therefore incredibly realistic. None of that ‘riding into battle in golden armour, vanquishing the enemy three times our size’ stuff that you get in other high fantasy books. This war is cold, bloody and messy. The main characters experience defeat and loss, and still keep going. It reminded me a bit of Steven Erikson’s books, tonewise. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.
I always find it hard to describe a story that is this long, so I’ll end with this: this book is good in the first couple of chapters, then it becomes great, and as soon as you’re halfway through the story it becomes incredible. A high fantasy book with a gripping plot, set in a well-written and unusual world, that is definitely worth getting into!