The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.
Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.
As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.
CW: torture, use of racial slurs
I have read every single book that Pacat has written and loved all of them dearly. So when I first saw the announcement of this book, I immediately added it to my tbr without even reading the premise. Getting rejected for an advance copy also didn’t bother because I knew I was gonna buy it anyway and this audiobook was quite fun.
I still didn’t bother to read the book summary even when I preordered the audio or before I started reading because I trust the author so much to give me an interesting story, and she did it. The writing is captivating right from the prologue, setting the tone for what kind of story this is gonna be. It’s a historical fantasy, which is not typically a subgenre I’m fond of but the author does a great job balancing the historical and fantasy elements. I especially loved the world building here – with its old, dark and lost magical past, a history between the Stewards and the Lions, the descendants and reincarnations of the heroes and villains of the past coming to a head again – it was super fun to get lost in this world and try to figure out what was gonna happen next. The pacing is perfect, the plotting marvelously done to give us enough clues to maybe guess what might happen but also have lots of surprises in store for us which thrilled me, and prose which is beautiful in it’s simplicity and emotional heft.
Will seems like a just a young man who is struggling to survive after having lost his mother and home in such violent circumstances, but as the story goes on we realize he is so much more. A contemplative and clever person, he doesn’t speak much but is always thinking and knows the right words to speak at the right time and is quite good at convincing people. I always had a feeling that he was figuring something out in his head but we aren’t privy to his thoughts and it was amazing to see what all he had pieced together towards the end.
Violet is a great companion for Will. She meets him by accident when she is trying to take steps to achieve her goal, and some revelations later she finds the trajectory of life changing completely. Hers is a fight against her own destiny – deciding that she is not going to go the way the people of her bloodline are expected to go and carve a path for herself, defending the Light in the advent of darkness. She is inherently good and trusting and extremely loyal, ready to fight and sacrifice herself to protect those who depend on her. I’m so in love with her !!!
This book also has a great cast of side characters. Justice is a another brave and loyal Steward who takes his duty to heart and will do anything to save the world. Cyprian is almost the same but circumstances force him to change his perspective of the world and people outside of his circle, but he never loses his loyalty and sense of duty. Katherine has a smaller presence but she is intriguing and after everything that happened to her, changing her life completely, I’m interested to see what she does next.
But the most fascinating among them all was James. The book starts off with him torturing someone and we gradually get to know that he is on the bad guy’s side. But he is very charming and has a magnetism about him that attracts us towards him, just like Will, and we try hard to see beneath the surface, hoping that he is so much more than just the reborn general of the Dark King.
In the end, I had so much fun reading this book just as I expected. It has fantastic lore and world building, a seamless blending of the old and new worlds, multifaceted characters who will make you love them instantly, and a plot that’ll you engaged throughout, delivering some unexpected twists towards the end. This excellent book is perfectly supported by the impressive performance of Christian Coulson, who brings his natural charm and wit to the narration. Definitely an unmissable book for every YA fantasy lover, and if you are a Pacat fan like me, I’m sure I don’t even have to recommend it to you.