“We killed people, in order that others may live. We soaked the city in blood, to make it clean. It’s for the best. One day people will see that.”
Don’t miss our podcast discussion over this book!
Okay, so lots of emotions on this one.
First off, the most commented thing on with this book is easily the writing style. It is different. It is very stylized and in a way that isn’t seen much in the fantasy genre. Probably the perfect example of this is a quote that seems to be used frequently in reviews:
“…Imagine saying that to Gulius’s family: he was killed fighting a dragon. He was killed fighting a dragon. A dragon killed him. A dragon.”
The prose can be repetitive, especially in the action sequences. It read more like a sort of stream of consciousness at times rather than a description of events. It was kind of strange at first but it added a level of immersion to getting inside a characters mind and emotions as they ran high.
The first 10-15% of the book does this sort of stylized prose most heavily and then as the story gets going it evens out some.
As for the story itself, it follows 4 POV characters: Marith, Thalia, Orhan, and Tobias.
It’s hard to get into their characterizations without too many spoiler details but for the most part, they are all very complex creatures.
Marith, who could arguably be the main character, is kind of like a combination between Jorg Ancrath from the Broken Empire series and Logen Ninefingers from The First Law Trilogy. He can be a huge pompous, violent asshole in his own right, but there is obviously supernatural going on with him as well that drives these impulses even further. As a reader, his character is interesting to delve into because I waffled between feeling sorry for him and kind of hating him.
Thalia is the High Priestess of a religion that requires human sacrifices, occasionally even children, to keep the cycle of life and death in motion. It is believed that if the sacrifices stop, the living will be unable to die and no more life will come into being (via birth it is assumed but I don’t think it specifically stated).
She has lived her life in the Great Temple and so her knowledge of the world around her is purely academic. When she finds herself out in real world, she is almost childlike. She is constantly in wonder of what she is seeing and experiencing and is drawn like a moth to a flame to Marith.
The story itself is not far off from the Goodreads description. However, the plot described there kind of reaches a climax at about the halfway point of the book (no spoilers about what happens with it though!). There are some very far-reaching consequences, most directly for Orhan.
The plotlines with Marith and Tobias though seemed to wander a little bit after this point. There was a constant question of “where exactly is this going” in my mind, like their plot lost some of its cohesion. It went into a kind of wait and see mode as things began to develop.
That loss of some of the story’s cohesion is honestly the only negative thing that I had about this book. Of all the things that I enjoyed though ,there are probably two things that I absolutely loved the most.
One, was Orhan. He is the most “normal” character I think in that he isn’t violent by nature, he is knowledgeable about the world, and he genuinely wants to protect the Empire. But this desire to protect leads him down a twisty turn-y path that leads to him making some very difficult decisions.
Two, I loved Thalia’s interactions and relationship with Marith. Not in a “shipping” kind of way because what is between them is incredibly unhealthy…but that unhealthiness is kind of why I am fascinated by it.
Thalia has this innocence about her despite her intelligence and wisdom so she knows on some level that something is wrong with Marith but at the same time she is too naive to separate herself. I absolutely cannot wait to see more of this relationship and where it goes…especially with the last Thalia chapter!