Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book- this in no way influences my opinion.
Review: When I first read the synopsis above, I was unsure of this book. On the one hand, it sounded intriguing. On the other, it didn’t provide enough information for me to gauge whether I would personally enjoy it. I have never read any of Michael Sullivan’s novels, but it’s my understanding that this book is set in the same universe as some of his other series, only at a different point in time. Regardless, it’s a standalone series and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not reading his other novels.
I will admit this book was hard for me to get into, in large part because it’s been awhile since I have read a true high fantasy. I’m used to action-packed YA fantasy. The difference between YA fantasy and this particular high fantasy novel can be likened to downing a mixed drink and savoring a fine wine. Both are enjoyable in their own contexts, but this book is definitely a fine wine with many subtle complexities that slowly emerge. The complexities in this analogy being the in-depth character development and incredible world building.
The novel starts with different point of view chapters for a variety of characters: Raithe, Persephone, Suri, and Arion. There’s no evident connection at first, but the storyline eventually interweaves together to become a fluent narrative. Although this does make the pace slow at the beginning, it is necessary to create fully fleshed out characters. Without the time devoted to this they would have otherwise seemed slightly clichéd. Instead, we get a good sense of who they are and what motivates them. I also appreciated that the majority of the protagonists were female- and while they were not overtly powerful heroines, they have an underlying strength that emerges throughout the novel. I see a lot of potential for their growth throughout the series.
However, the real treat of this novel is the world building. This world isn’t something that was just slapped together to further the storyline. No, this is a fully developed universe complete with history and myths. You can tell the author will continue to flesh it out even further as the series continues and delve into more of its intricacies. The world itself is divided into two races: Frey and Rhune. The latter, the Rhune, view the Frey as godlike because they appear to be immortal and possess magic. However, the Frey are not immortal and only a very select few, the Miralyith, have magical abilities, referred to as the art. This causes a divide as the Miralyith view themselves as vastly superior to the other Frey, and especially the Rhunes.
For years, the Rhunes have respected and revered the Frey. This all changes when Raithe kills a Frey, revealing they are actually not immortal. As expected there are repercussions and the Frey start to exterminate villages of Rhunes- not only in retaliation, but also out of fear of their numbers. While there are only a few hundred Frey, there are thousands of Rhunes. If mobilized and united they could potentially destroy the Frey. Most of this book lays the foundation for a battle that will emerge in the sequels. The book also hints at an internal war between the Frey, due the class stratification in their society.
My one criticism of this novel is the relationship development is lacking. We see some in terms of friendships, but I would have liked those explored more in-depth. There is also little romance in the book. I don’t mind this, but the book attempted to throw some in without developing it. However, I find this typical in high fantasy novels, and my guess is that it will be built upon in later novels- although not to the same extent as you would see in YA or NA fantasy.
Overall, this is everything you would expect in a high fantasy novel. I loved the character development and world building, but the pace is slow. However, I understand the necessity and expect there will be a lot more action in the sequels. And while the story is predictable in parts, we are thrown some unexpected twists toward the end. This is slated to be a 5 book series and Book 1 expertly lays out the foundation and wraps up nicely with no dramatic cliffhangers. I look forward to seeing where the series goes.
Reviewed by: Pamela J.
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