Carol A. Park’s first novel deserves a whole lot of attention for its solid characters, worldbuilding, romance and an impressively deep and deliciously complex magic system! These are the aspects of Banebringer I will be expanding upon during the length of this review, so sit tight and enjoy!
Banebringers (or Gifted, as they prefer to be called) are the chosen of the old, sacrilegious gods of the land, blessed (or cursed) with amazing powers. Invisibility, pyrokinetics, darksight and water manipulation, healing abilities and so much more, they are all gifts of the patrons to their Banebringers. And that’s just the start – this isn’t just elemental magic; it’s also blood magic. When a Banebringer bleeds, their blood quickly turns to aether, a silvery substance that can be used by another Banebringer to reproduce the abilities of the first. And just in case that’s not enough, if one of those remarkable Gifted is killed, their death opens up a tear in reality, which summons a most horrible, terrible no-good monstrosity, whose badness and horribleness is directly proportionate to just how much the Banebringer in question has used his powers over the span of their life. It’s an interesting system. Park uses it with imagination and does plenty I didn’t see coming, and for that, she gets the highest marks!
The first of the two leads in this novel is the assassin Sweetblade, who also goes by the name of Ivana and will soon be getting a prequel, called—you guessed it—Sweetblade! I hear it’s shipping out in December, and I’m looking forward to reading it. The second lead is Vaughn, our resident Banebringer, a young nobleman’s son who is dogged by his old man at every step as he tries to navigate around a world that fears and hates him. Sounds a bit magically X-Men, doesn’t it, and that might be why it appeals so much to me. I’ve ever been a gigantic sucker for a marginalized people trying to survive against an unjust world.
The dynamic between Ivana and Vaughn starts off at a pretty antagonistic level, which makes their partnership of convenience that much more fun to read, and I feel that I should give yet more props to Carol Park for the spin she gives on a relationship we’ve all read dozens of times. She makes the love-hate relationship between our two leads feel fresh again, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Both characters are flawed, scarred and very, very human, and the conflicts they face give both of them memorable character arcs, which are nothing to sneer at. This is one of those novels where we can definitely talk about character agency.
The romance and worldbuilding are also nothing to sneer at, and neither are the supporting characters. From an antagonist whose connection with both Vaughn and Ivana is very personal, to a Banebringer leader forced in a tight spot by his constituency, to a spy and confidant with a good sense of humour, this novel has quite the colourful cast.
This is the first in a series of planned novels, though I don’t know whether this’ll be a trilogy or not. The ending is self-contained enough not to bother anyone, at any rate. What I would suggest is you get yourself a copy at the price of $3.99, and you spend a few days reading through it; you’ll be sure to enjoy it!
I’m happy to give it five stars on Goodreads, and a sky-full of in my heart!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Banebringer in return for an honest review!