I am a lover of all things nerd. Space, anime, cosplay, video games, you name it! By nature, I relish debate and analysis. I'm a fan of logic, which is part of why I chose to become a Transportation Engineer. Otherwise, I love a good laugh & I'm generally pretty goofy & friendly on a regular basis.
This story is split into four perspectives.
Daughter of the Duke & thus protected from the consequences of her "outsider" lineage, she is her father's most trusted blade.
A young man whose father leads a gypsy-like vigilante group that primarily fight to give back to the poor farmers of the land, for a price of course.
A young Mother-in-Guidance & steadfast Stargazer, she belongs to a religious group who worship the goddess of the stars, Ytoile, and condemn the daylight as the time of the sun demon.
Next in line for the Hanaobi throne, he fears he does not live up to the legacy father and older brother left behind neither in his own eyes nor in his mother's eyes.
My absolute favorite part of this book is the religion of the Stargazers. They're a bit like nuns, primarily occupying a tower & consisting of women & children. They worship the goddess of the night & consider the sun to be the enemy of their deity. They cite the sunburns on their pale skin as evidence of the sun demon's malevolence.
I just love religious, cult-like themes in novels if they are well-written. I think they add an interesting dynamic & characterization potential, and McNulty crafts her characters seamlessly around this particular aspect of the novel.
When you're dealing with dialogue, there are a lot of things to consider. Personality, regional slang, and making sure each character has a distinct & believable presence that doesn't contradict your previous characterization. The dialogue in this novel also was a high point for me, as I felt it was quite realistic & differential between the characters.
My major criticism boils down to the fact that I really struggled to follow why certain events unfolded, primarily in the second half of the book. I feel like on both a large & small scale, the important bridges between plot points were entirely forgotten or skipped over.
I had particular trouble picturing the sequence of the climax, but not necessarily due to the writing. The writing was clear in its description, but it read as though I was blacking out while it was happening. I latched onto a train of thought only to have the story switch gears again it what didn't always feel like a logical turn of events.
Characters were popping up here & there, moving around to different locations, teaming up & betraying one another, revealing snatches of their individual motives, but it all sort of came off as a jumble.
Relationship development was a bit on the choppy side, and it caused me to feel somewhat detached. The story also suffered from using First Person POV for all 4 characters. Third Person at least some of the time would've helped fill in those gaps, I feel.
Overall, I appreciate the darker themes, as I think Young Adult literature tends to stay on the safer side when it comes to certain topics. There is definitely an interesting premise here, however, I think the book could benefit from taking more time to fill out its story & tightening its focus.
"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!