Stars: 3 out of 5.
While I mostly liked this book, it didn’t wow me like some other fantasy books I read this year.
I think the reason for that is that I had too many questions about the worldbuilding that were never answered. Crache is a fascinating concept, but if you start digging a little deeper into it, you realize that it doesn’t work.
Try as I may, I couldn’t picture this country. Cities are mentioned, but never truly explored apart from the parts of one city where the Gens live and the Bottoms, where the poor, the beggars, the infirm, and the “useless” eke a pitiful existence. What about the people in the middle? What about the simple citizens? They are mentioned once in passing. How do they live? How do they make a living? If you have to form a Gen to do any kind of trade in Crache, then what do the simple citizens subsist on? Are they allowed to work? Or do they just exist on some kind of universal income and do nothing?
The second problem for me was the whole concept of the Savage Legion. “Brutal. Efficient. Unstoppable.” is what the blurb says. I would have to disagree with the last two statements. There is no way an army assembled from the dregs of society, barely trained, equipped with broken weapons and almost no armor can be efficient. Yes, they can overwhelm some opponents with their sheer numbers, but there is a limit to that as well. The Roman Legions have proven that organization and training trump sheer numbers any day of the week. Legionnaires conquered most of Europe, even though their numbers were much smaller than the Visigoths that opposed them. But they were professional soldiers, skilled, trained, and better equipped.
With the Savage Legion, we are talking about half-starved and often infirm people who had never fought a battle in their life before. Who are just thrown into the fray as cannon fodder. Any well organized army would make quick work of them.
Finally, the multiple POVs do this book a disservice, in my opinion. They are too distant from each other. I understand that the author wanted to show different aspects of Crache through the experiences of these three women, but as a result, all three stories feel broken and disjointed. As soon as we are immersed in one story and the tension is mounting to some kind of resolution, the next chapter switches to another story. Tension – killed. We try to pick up the thread of that story again and decide whether we care or not. And as soon as we start caring for that story again, the POV switches one more time.
The problem with multiple POVs in this book is also that none of the stories have a resolution. I understand that there is a sequel, but there should be at least some emotional pay off at the end of book 1. A reward for following the story so far, of sorts. Some kind of win for the protagonists. Here, the story just… stops. Well, all three stories just kind of stop in the middle.
To me that is rather frustrating, and it doesn’t make me want to pick up the next book, even though I already have it on my kindle. But I might give it a go just to see if I get more answers to all my questions.