Since the first time I saw the gorgeous cover of this book and read the blurb, I knew I had to read it and I also had this deep conviction that I would really enjoy it a lot. And I’m feeling pretty gratified right now that my assessment was spot on and this ended up being a wonderful read.
I found the world building in this book to be very well written, giving us enough information at the right times so we know what’s happening, but also maintaining an air of mystery throughout which is definitely what’s gonna make me read the next one. I loved the idea of some part of the population being Graced (have magical abilities) while the remaining being graceless, because this renders into a very natural and believable conflict. Add to this the idea of a prophecy and a final prophet (mind you, it’s been a long long while since I’ve read a fantasy with prophecies in it), a secret Order destined to protect them and an upcoming doomsday scenario, this became a very compelling read. We only get to know a bit of the history of the bygone Prophets, but I have a feeling we will get to know much more in the later books. This book is also very diverse and I was very happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any sexism or homophobia.
I was actually surprised to see that we get five POVs here, which is not an easy thing to do but the author does a brilliant job of giving each of them distinct voices and purposes. Usually there’s always the one we don’t like when there are so many characters to follow, but there is absolutely no miss here – I loved following every single one of them and badly wanted to know what was happening to each of them when we were in another person’s head. The writing is also very fast paced, there is not a single dull moment and there’s always something happening that kept me at the edge of my seat. Even when I went out to a bookstore over the weekend (while I was still just 20% into the book), I ended up finding a nice reading nook and continuing with it instead of browsing for more books; it was that irresistible to me. I also loved how many twists and turns there were; and while I was thinking too high of myself for guessing one important twist, there were so many other shocking reveals and betrayals that I couldn’t see coming and was completely blown away. I really want to commend the author for writing such a tight plot despite having multiple threads, and the way each of them intermingled with the others was just wow.
As you all know that I’m a sucker for well written characters, this book was a joy to read for me. Each of the characters is well rounded, we get to know where they are coming from, where they might be heading towards and what’s the justification behind their actions. We really get to know all of them very intimately and I loved that. And it was the way every one of them was different that I found compelling – some are driven for the sake of family, some just want to survive and others are bound by duty – but they all converge in unexpected ways and I thoroughly enjoyed the various dynamics that formed in the process.
Even the side characters are given prominent arcs which I found surprising but kudos to the author for managing to make me care about so many of them. And the villain characters are also not cliche – they have their own motivations and it was actually interesting to get to know them because for a moment, I found their arguments right too. And any author who can make me agree with both the protagonists and the villains is a force to reckon with and I can’t wait to see where these characters’ journeys take them next.
One of the themes that I seem to find very interesting these days in many fantasy novels is the idea of questioning history – how much of what we have been taught and what we have believed is the actual truth, and what part of it is just glorified propaganda by the victors. I resonate with this a lot because I think this is a compelling argument in the real world too and everyday, we realize that the adage “History is written by the victors” is very much true and it is our duty to find the actual truth.
The other most important theme in this book is the tug of war between destiny and free will. It’s impossible not to explore the concept of destiny in a story based on prophecies and I think the author did a great job showing us that sometimes, it’s more important to do the right thing, whether it is destined or not. And the choices we make define the person we become, and however noble our intentions at the beginning of our journey, it’s the ultimate path we choose that makes us who we are going to be and how we will be remembered.
There is also a bit of light thrown on the plight of refugees who have been forced to leave their home – their worry about the ones left behind, the distressing and inhumane conditions in which they are forced to live in a strange land, the violent prejudice shown by some people in the new place where they are seeking refuge and the downright apathy of the authorities – its all depicted in a very raw and realistic manner and has stark parallels to the real world.
In the end, I want to conclude by saying that if you are a YA fantasy fan and love ensemble casts, you must read this book. It is action packed, full of twists and turns and brilliantly written characters whom you can’t help but fall in love with. Forbes called this book and The Merciful Crow some of the best YA fantasies of 2019 and I promise you, that’s absolutely true. I enjoyed the hell out of this one and I already wanna know what the author is going to come up with next – and one thing I can be sure of is that I will be rereading this before the sequel releases.