*I was assigned this book for SPFBO7*
I had high hopes for this story. From the cover to the description, it seemed right up my alley. And I wasn't disappointed.
The Mortal Blade follows four characters in a City. This City is ruled first and foremost by the God-King and God-Queen, and then is sectioned off to their children, demigods, to implement their rule. Each demigod has special powers - healing, for instance, or vision (where they can see into the the future or read minds), or battle-vision, where they are unstoppable in battle. From the outset, I was a bit confused as I tried to piece together each demigod and which section of the City they were in charge of. I wasn't aware of the explanation in the back of the book... oh well.
A large section of this book involves the politics, treason, and back biting of these demigods as they vie for power. 300 years ago, there was a Civil War, where gods were killing each other and scrapping for more power. The poor mortals under their rule couldn't do much about it. And now, in the present day, there is an upsurge in this type of behavior. A riot breaks out in the poorest part of the City, causing mayhem and carnage.
We are introduced to four characters - there is Corthie, a mortal who has battle vision, which is unheard of. Mortals are not supposed to have powers. There are hints that he is more than what he seems, and has come from another world. He was captured and enslaved, and was placed among the Blades, the men and women responsible for fighting the greenhides. They are large bug like monsters who have been besieging the City for a loooooong time. Corthie rises to fame, and the demigods want to use him and his prestige to their own ends.
Then there is Maddie, a private recently added to the Blades. Maddie is headstrong, doesn't follow orders, and is finally placed with just one other Captain as last-ditch effort to see if she can behave before becoming a Rat, the front-line soldiers fighting the greenhides. Maddie is sworn to secrecy with her new mission - and it is definitely NOT what she expected.
Next there is Aila - a demigod with the power to change her appearance. She is rogue god, not much interested in the politics of her cousins. She actually has a liking for the mortals, and wants what's best for them. But she hides it behind a tough exterior. If the other gods had inklings of this "weakness" they would do doubt exploit it. She spends her time hunting down the mortal gang leaders and killing them, if necessary, using an alter-ego called Stormfire.
Lastly, there is Daniel. He's part of the Aurelian nobility, and recently graduated from military school. He's assigned to lead troops to the outskirts of the riots, and in so doing, gains fame when he is in charge of a particular occurrence (no spoilers). He himself is disgusted with how he handled it, but the rest of the mortal nobility claim he is a hero.
It was interesting to me to see these four characters and how their stories intertwined. The pacing is well done, although it did take me awhile to get caught up in the story, initially, since I was still trying to figure out how the City infrastructure worked. It is complex, for sure. I wasn't a huge fan of Daniel's POV, and found it a bit boring. I didn't find him to be a character that I could root for. However, the other three were spectacular. There is magic, and mayhem, and monsters and dragons (!!!) and scheming and politics... I loved it.
The plot could have used some fine tuning. It took me awhile to figure out what the book was actually about, and where it was headed. This is a heavy dose of god-politics and scheming. The riot didn't seem to be the center-point of the story until more towards the end of the book. And the greenhides were just... there. I would have liked to see a bit more about the world as a whole, since the story only took place in one city. As mentioned above, there are hints of the existence of other worlds. I'm sure this will come out more in the sequel.
The writing is very well done. The author has a talent for drawing the reader in to the characters and their lives. It's clear that a lot of work was put into this City and the structure, which I appreciated. And the writing itself was crisp, with only a few grammatical errors. For an indie book, that is very well done, indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and instantly downloaded the second installment when I was finished. It was intricate, exciting, engaging, and all around a worthy addition to the epic fantasy genre.