My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m really torn here. There are parts of the book that scream 4-star, and others that demand 2-star. Most of it is one or the other, with the rest falling in the middle. In the end, that’s what I’m using for the overall rating.
Worldbuilding. I love the way the aristocracy is set up and the structure of the Duchy. There’s serious potential with the Motherland (I forget what it’s called) to the West and other geographical areas.
Intrigue. Awesome. The political maneuverings of the different houses, shifting alliances and all. Again, real potential in future volumes. This is one area where it reminded me of the structure of the Dune universe.
Culture. Fascinating. I love that Beaulieu’s going away from the typical Western European flavor. When most authors do that, they end up with an Asian or Native American culture feel. While those can be fun, I love that he’s taken it another step in the alternative direction and gone Russian on us.
Atiana. She’s a darling. Of all the characters, she’s by far my favorite. She’s part spoiled princess, but she follows her conscience and has some serious integrity. She has a heart as well, which seems unusual for one from her
Magic system. Though it needs to be illustrated a little more clearly, I think the magic is pretty cool in this book. Note, illustrated doesn’t necessarily mean explained. I don’t have to have it broken down. If I can visualize it, I’m good to go.
The air ships. This was a beautifully done concept. Not entirely original in idea, the execution was very good. The technical/magical combination that made flying ships possible was one in a way that was believable and plausible. I especially loved when the seasoned sailor Nikandr was seasick, when forced to sail on actual water. That was great!
The characters that aren’t named Atiana. Most of them are shallow, or simply not drawn out. In most cases, Beaulieu has the potential to really expand on them and erase this criticism. I think
Rehada. She has a special place away from the other characters on my shit list. Ugh. She could have been great, and might be in a film version. But here it was hard to sympathize with her shifting loyalties and ever-swapping love fascinations. Her motivations started out pretty good, but she seemed more like a method of moving the plot along than a serious character for development.
The demon/sprit thingies. I mean, they were cool enough in concept. But in execution, I was going WTF? a lot. For one, I never could figure out the difference between a vanahezhan and a suurahezhan and a jalahezhan and a whathefukahezhan. Did anyone? It seemed like their names changed with each sentence sometimes.
All in all, I think this was a well written book. The concepts and cultures are wonderful. I wasn’t always pleased with the execution, but I’d definitely say that Beaulieu has an excellent foundation here with this first novel. I’m looking forward to reading more.
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