The people of Nelebek live in fear of persecution from the evil Morlet, who reigns with a dark and destructive magic. The kingdom’s only hope lies with the Order of the Krigers—twelve warriors with mysterious powers linked to magical weapons.
For over a century, Morlet has been annihilating the Order, picking them off one by one. Eleven Krigers have been hunted down, tortured, and imprisoned in his dungeon. Now, only one remains.
Sixteen-year-old Kaia survives by keeping her head down and minding her own business. But when she finds herself in the middle of a public execution where the mysterious Morlet is in attendance, an odd compulsion she can’t resist comes over her.
Kaia looks into Morlet’s eyes.
Soon, an ancient power awakens and Kaia can no more blend into the scenery. Will she heed the call of the Krigers or will Morlet’s dark magic destroy the last of the Order?
Blurb and cover from Goodreads
3.5 out of 5 stars
Honest review, right? Okay. This is going to hurt me a lot more than you, but okay.
I love this author, truly, and her debut novel was knock-your-socks-off awesomesauce, but I just felt like this piece didn’t have that level of nuance. I’ve come to expect a great deal more because I know she’s capable of incredible pieces and with another round of revision I think this could have been a fantastic book, but I’ve got to evaluate it as-is. (It’s like 4-H horse judging all over again.)
There was an intriguing premise here, but a few things that seemed a little contrived. At the very beginning, it seemed odd that Kaia just so happens to be the one sent to meet Anders who just so happens to pick the (very public) square as a meeting place as Morlet just so happens to be at an execution. All of that could have been smoothed out with just a few tweaks, but…oh, well. It was mostly little things like that building up that demoted this book from 5 stars.
Actually, most of the dings against this story came from the plot. In certain places, some characters seemed to behave out of character and coincidences occurred. There were times it almost seemed the story was bending over backwards in order to make sense.
It’s hard to get a bead on Kaia’s character, but she’s having trouble understanding herself. She’s basically lived in a box her whole life, she doesn’t really know who or what she is. I did like that she’s gutsy and smart despite being a bit sheltered. I most loved the balance of her character and the conflict of who to trust—and how it made sense that she doubted the “good” guys. In many cases, the heroine/hero will mistrust the people who are trying to help them and you know they’re messing up, but in her case, I wasn’t quite sure. The thing I most hated about her was that she didn’t knee Vidar in his particulars, but I have my hopes up for the next book.
The subplot with aforementioned Vidar rankled me a
lot little. It wasn’t just that I ship her with Anders (and shut up, I know everyone who read this book is on my side), but the way the Vidar subplot was handled made me uncomfortable. There were some kind of rape-y comments in there with the “that is what I will do” and “must” and he was really a jerk with regard to the whole thing. Then he SPOILER brings her father in on it in an effort to force her into marrying him (rat bastard) and Kaia’s father agrees because apparently the girl needs someone to take care of her even though he’s raised her to be strong and independent and every woman requires man to survive and that made me SO MAD ALL AROUND. SPOILER OVER.
*Envision a deep breath here*
Anyway, I didn’t count off for that, just for the perceived inconsistency with regard to her father’s character.
And yes, I loved Anders because he’s spooky and mysterious and an assassin and I’m into those right now. Still, I think my favorite character was Morlet.
Morlet seems pretty cut-and-paste fantasy villain from the blurb up there, but we don’t really have any idea what the hell is going on with him by the end. I feel like there’s almost two personas meshed together in that head of his, fighting over what’s going to happen. He was complicated and unpredictable, but never came across as irrational. He is a puzzle and I admit I’m incredibly intrigued.
One thing I truly appreciated was the little quirks that gave the story originality. There was the French-based world building (as opposed to the traditional medieval English fantasy world), the variety of weaponry, and the terminology were wonderfully fresh. It was little hints like this that reminded me of the author’s creative capability and made it all the most frustrating that this piece wasn’t as well composed as some of her other works.
In short, it could have been much better, but I still plan to read the sequels and this has not in any way dissuaded me from my obsession with the author’s work.