Stars: 3 out of 5
It is sad when you say something like “It was okay,” when you try to describe a book. Unfortunately, this is exactly what this book was. Just okay. The story was okay and moved swiftly enough to keep me interested. The characters were okay, though I question the need for some of them. The worldbuilding was… lacking, honestly.
There are some aspects that I liked about this book. The relationship between the two sisters being one of them. It felt very real. It wasn’t saccharine sweet. They bickered, they resented each other, they didn’t see eye to eye on some things. But they always cared about each other, even when mad and fighting.
The sisters were also pretty fleshed out as characters, with distinct motivations and character flaws, so it was easy to empathize and root for them. Though Celestia’s stubborn belief that Lindon would help them and do as she asks “because he is her husband” became a little bit grating overtime. Especially after their first encounter when he proved that no, he wouldn’t do as she asked or even listen to her.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Ico. Honestly, I’m still not sure what purpose he played in this book. He had no motivation for going on this quest (apart from being forced into it for no fault of his own), and he is never a driving force in this story. He is more of a complaining sidekick that the sisters drag along. We could have cut his character out of the book completely and not lost any of the story. The sisters could have hired the help of a nameless boat captain or guide and he would have fulfilled the same role.
I loved the jungle and the valley of the Seraphine river. It is so well described that I could feel the humid heat and smell the sweet and rotting stench of the river. I was less entranced with the other locations in this book, because we spent a lot less time in them, and most of the time spent was indoors, so I couldn’t really picture them in my head.
And speaking of locations, some of them were completely unnecessary. For example, what was the point of the whole visit to the Emperor’s palace? It didn’t move the plot whatsoever. They learned nothing new there. It was just a detour before continuing the story. And it felt shoe-horned into the story as an afterthought.
Finally, I’m still not sure how the magic of this world works, and it’s never really explained. So we have aetheric magic, and the magic of each Airiana is different, but then also you have the Starless mages, and oh wait, the magic in the city of Bloodwine is also different, and there is alchemy… It’s a confusing mess. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more then happy to believe in a complex magical system, if I understand the rules. Here, the author doesn’t even bother explaining them, so that’s frustrating.
Also, I’m not sure I am onboard with the ending. Are we forgetting that the Emperor of the Seraphine had forbidden them to go after Decay? That he kept them as hostages in his palace to prevent them from doing that? That they basically committed treason? And killed a few of his guards escaping the palace? Yet Celestia returns to Cross Winds, like nothing happened. Is she not afraid that Starless Mages will come for her in the night? For her son? The Lady of the Seraphine even told her that those are human affairs that don’t concern her. Yet Celestia seems to continue her life, like nothing happened.
I am also not particularly sure how I feel about the romance between Celestia and Omaira (spelling). It felt completely unnatural to the story. Probably because it wasn’t woven organically into the story to begin with. Celestia was so focused on finding Decay and preventing her husband from dying that any hint of romance simply wasn’t there (or I missed it). So it was shocking to me to see them so sweet on each other days after her husband died. This as not needed. They could just have been really good friends brought together by pain and loss and the hard times they experienced together. Whatever grew out of that friendship could have been a story for another book.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.