“She is torment given flesh and form, terrible and beautiful”
“How do you love,” Ianthe once asked me. I will tell you this: Like the blade. Like the bite.
I have never read a book before that alternated between first person present tense and third person past tense. At first, it threw me off a bit, but after I got used to the device, I felt like it really worked. This is not your standard fantasy novel, but more of a literary work of Old West-type speculative fiction, and the alternating POVs and tenses served their purpose well.
But though the prose is glorious, the characters are what truly drive this novel, which tells the story of one family separated by design, secrets, and tragedy. The events of the novel take place in Shine Territory, where life revolves around a magical oil controlled by one man: Matthew Esco. Matthew’s son, Arlen Esco, is captured by outlaw Chris Hobson while on a scouting expedition, only to have shocking and painful truths revealed that lead him to discover things about his own past he never knew. Meanwhile, Hobson’s daughter Cassandra has been separated from her father for years. She has been raised by family under the stigma of being the daughter of a murderous outlaw. As the plot unfolds and secrets are revealed, it is the relationship between these remarkable characters that drives a story that is at once both heartwarming and tear-gripping. (I nearly cried my eyes out over the span of many chapters).
This is the only fantasy I have ever read where one of the main characters is transgender, for which Sarah Chorn receives a standing ovation. The novel also features a same-sex relationship, and both treatments I found beautiful and inspiring. The world is well-built and thoughtfully conceived, and the plot moved fast enough to hold my attention but slow enough to savor all the feels (even the feels I didn’t want to savor but hurt so damn good).
I wholeheartedly recommend this novel and will await, teary-eyed, for the sequel.