I really didn’t think I would read this book. I’m still not sure why I did. I guess I was trying to challenge myself because the words that come to mind when I look at this book are ambitious and intimidating. Another reason was that I recently realized it’s a standalone, and it’s so rare to find epic fantasies which are not trilogies (atleast among the books I usually read). I didn’t have much expectations from the book but right from the beginning, it felt very different.
This could have easily been a duology or trilogy, but the author decided to give us one book and she deftly manages to build a fully realized world. We get multiple kingdoms – each with their own rulers, beliefs, histories. The book can come across as info dumpy initially because we are given so much information about places and characters, I thought about writing down notes (I never do that folks!!!). But once we get a basic idea, I fell in love with this world. The whole idea of these different kingdoms having a shared history and a common enemy, but still fighting each other because they each have come to believe in different versions of the history is very fascinating. It also plays into what’s happening in our real world – isolationism only exacerbates the feeling of “otherness” and creates more differences and limits any chances of getting to know each other better. The dragons in this world are also quite different, both good and bad, and the author takes inspiration from both Western and Eastern myths which makes for an interesting duality and is the basis for the various kinds of relationships that the kingdoms have with the dragons. This world feels very real and expansive and I think the author does a great job giving us enough details that we don’t get lost, but are also able to weave our own imaginations.
The writing is just so easy to read and accessible, I loved it. That’s one reason I felt much less intimidated after I started reading. The descriptions are vivid and lush – of both the environment and the various creatures – and I didn’t feel the need to skim anywhere despite the length. The characters are also very interesting and memorable and don’t play into the common tropes that we encounter in fantasy. I loved that all of them have strong beliefs but still question what they have been taught, want to decide their own destinies and are always open to accepting differences. This book is full of political intrigue and how each character navigates the court is a lesson in itself. The relationships between the characters are a treat and I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships as well as the extremely well written f/f romance. I also appreciate the author for not feeling the need to give romantic interests to every character and giving us some amazing platonic friendships. There is steady build up that the author marvelously creates for the ominous threat to the world and I enjoyed how high the stakes felt. There are also a couple of action packed scenes in between which got my heart racing. But after all of this wonderful creation of the world, it’s history and characters, I felt letdown by the ending. I guess I’m used to a lot of action towards the end and while there was a bit here, it just didn’t feel enough.
If you like your fantasies with great world building, interesting characters and lots of court intrigue plus dragons, you should definitely check this book out. But mind you that this is a story that steadily builds up and is not full of elaborate action sequences. While it didn’t make me feel overly emotional, it left me feeling content for having read a solidly done ambitious book.