"You are a Rune Guard. Your father trained you, your mother came before you. The blood of champions flows through you."
So this was a really fun book.
Sandell Wall's debut High Fantasy novel is made up of two perspectives. Remus is a young blacksmith taken with the idea of living a life of importance, constantly pushing the boundaries of his own potential. Aventine is a new soldier in the Emperor's elite fighting force, the Rune Guard, and eager to live up to her mother's legacy.
I enjoyed both perspectives & felt both are incredibly well balanced with how much screen time they receive. Especially as the parallel between the two characters becomes clearer & their stories progress. The main characters had some engaging scenes that strongly characterized their personalities & make it clear how much they are striving be more that what they are.
"You cannot trap the ocean in a barrel."
I do wish that each had experienced a bit more growth over the course of the book. Remus in particular experiences a mini quest that feels random before he eventually finds the track that leads him on his primary journey. But neither character majorly evolves from who they are on page 1.
The magic system in this world has me quite intrigued. When powered, runestones lend certain abilities to items that have had the proper runes carved into them. The runes present a unique element to the story & I loved seeing their different powers put into action.
I also quite fancied Wall's writing style. His words had a nice flow & provided some really excellent imagery.
"Intricate foil work on the parchment shimmered like rivulets of colored mercury, reflecting the light of the rune in Axid's hand."
However, when it comes to dialogue I felt there could be some more differentiation between how each character speaks. Often I found the conversations between characters a bit too cheesy & unrealistic.
The most detrimental detail came in the form of being able to read the main characters' thoughts. It was distracting in the midst of such lovely writing to read an italicized line of thought instead of having those sentiments integrated into a normal sentence or two.
The major threat that sets events in motion is too vaguely explained in this first installment for my liking. I don't feel entirely satisfied with how much I know about the different races the populate this world, the politics of the empire, or the side characters now that I've finished. But this is a small criticism, I really want to know more.
In many ways, this novel could really benefit from being longer. I felt as though most of the situations presented were about 3/4 of the way through their development, and I would've liked to spend just a little more time getting my bearings with these characters & in this world.
Overall, this debut is quite an achievement. I am definitely interested in seeing where things go from here!