Prince Bifalt of Belleger is on a mission. His nation has been at war with Amika for countless generations; so long, in fact, that both sides have forgotten what they’re fighting over in the first place. But warring for so long is taking a heavy toll on Belleger, and now on top of that every single sorceror in Belleger has lost their magic, leaving the nation vulnerable to attack from the Amika’s Magisters. All the people have left to protect themselves are their rifles, feared by the Amikans but impossible to replicate without magic. Their only hope: find a book that will help them restore their own magic and leave Amika’s Magisters utterly powerless. But the book is only a rumor, said to reside on the shelves of the Last Repository, a mythical library located somewhere off of the edges of all known maps. Bifalt, armed only with his rifle and his rage, takes a small group of men into the unknown, in search of a fable.
Bifalt is honorable and upright, the crown prince of his realm. But the man has serious anger issues. He cares about his people and wants to save his realm, but he can turn into a self-righteous rage monster at the drop of a hat. I didn’t find him likable, but his inner struggle was compelling. How he fought against the rising tide of new knowledge he was faced with, especially as it proved that the things he was raised believing might not be the whole truth, was so relatable. Cognitive dissonance, man; it can bring the best of us to our knees.
The plot was intriguing but moved at an incredibly slow pace during the first half of the book. However, things picked up right around that halfway mark. Donaldson has a talent for crafting unique, breathtaking settings, and that is showcased in this book. There was a magical caravan traveling through a vast desert, and I loved the incredible variety of peoples and cultures and carriages that Donaldson included. The caravan felt so lush, especially after the starkness of the preceding chapters. The Last Repository was also fascinating. Libraries are my favorite settings, both in fiction and real life, so I enjoyed the hunt for the mysterious library.
This book is a short book with a slow pace. It’s the first book of a series, but offered a satisfying enough conclusion so that readers aren't left hanging as they await the next installment. If you’re a fan of flintlock fantasy and no-nonsense prose, of quests for mythical places and man’s inner struggle when forced to face himself, this just might be the book for you.