Category Archives: Dark fantasy

The Beholden by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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.

To Ride a Rathorn (Kencyrath 4) by PC Hodgell

Stars: 5 out of 5

I continue to be impressed with this series. The complexity of the worldbuilding is staggering. Every book adds a new piece of the puzzle to the bigger picture of creation. I am fascinated and I want to know more.

I also really like Jame as a character, and I think that she grew and evolved a lot since the first book where we saw her emerge out of the Haunted Lands. She is finding her stride and her own worth in this world. She is finally making peace with her powers and her destiny, even though, in true Jame fashion, she will follow that destiny on her own terms. I think she is beginning to realize that family isn’t only blood. That it’s also the connections you create or the creatures you bind to yourself (either intentionally or not). And that you are responsible for that family. Speaking of that, I am not happy with how she treats Graykin in this book. Hopefully, she realizes that and course corrects in the next book.

It’s also interesting to see that Jame is already performing her function as Nemesis, albeit in a small way. She is like a hot knife puncturing old abscesses everywhere she goes. Things hidden for decades come to light, horrible crimes committed in the past have repercussions in the present. And Jame is in the middle of it, whether she wants it or not.

Speaking of old crimes. The more we find out about what happened 60 years ago with Jame’s family, the more I feel for both Jame and Torisen. No wonder they are so broken, coming from so much pain, misery and death. No wonder their father went mad. Sounds like his life had been horrific. 

As I said, I think Jame had a lot of character growth in this story and became a better, and more stable, person. My complaint is that Torisen didn’t get that chance. He seems stuck in his soulscape, constantly listening to the poisonous words of his dead father, doubting himself and his sister. He needs to open that door and face what’s behind it, the sooner the better. He can’t afford not to, if he wants to remain the Highlord and save his people from the moral corruption that seems to have infected the Kencyrath. 

I also loved Jame’s dreamlike travels through Rathillien’s countryside and her interactions with the local Gods, Mother Raga especially. And I’m glad that her and the rathorn colt didn’t kill each other. 

I will definitely continue with this series because I want to know more about this complex world and I want Jame and Tori to finally vanquish their demons and become the twins they were destined to be.

One Dark Window (The Shepherd King 1) by Rachel Gillig

Stars: 5 out of 5

This book is dark and poetic, cruel and poignant, horrifying and fascinating. I loved every page of it, which is rare for a YA book. So I would say this is a YA book done right. No over emphasis on “feelings” and love triangles, but just good old-fashioned storytelling at its best. 

The world in this book is fascinating – it’s dark and unforgiving, but has a strange poetic beauty to it as well. This is a single kingdom that is cut out from the rest of the world by a wall of mists that turn anyone who wanders into their midst without a charm insane. And they also slowly choke the land, advancing closer and closer to human habitations, killing the crops and blocking out the sun. Oh, and some citizens get the fever and acquire magical abilities, which in this kingdom is a certain death sentence not only for the infected, but for their family as well, if they hide them from the King’s justice.

Oh, and magic in this world has a price. Any sort of magic, even the Providence Cards, exact a bloody price from the user. Nothing is free, and the reckoning always comes. I loved that! I’ve read too many books were magic is seemingly effortless and free for the caster, as if creating something out of nothing is a perfectly normal occurrence. Having magic exact a price is a refreshing change. That way there is a balance – a magic user can do terrible things in this world, but the price to pay would be just as terrible.

I also really liked the characters, especially Elspeth. All her actions and reactions made sense. She wasn’t the Chosen one, or a special snowflake. She was real and very human, and very very flawed. And she was lost and battling her own personal Nightmare, a loosing battle, I must say. I also liked how she slowly changed in this book from only caring about staying safe and hidden to actually embracing a dangerous cause. Yes, she’d done it at first because she wanted to be cured of her affliction, but by the end of the book she gives in to the Nightmare, fully knowing that she would be lost, for the hope that by her actions she can save others.

The writing is also very engaging. It’s rather poetic at times. I found myself repeating some sentences out loud just because they had a certain hypnotic rhythm to them. I think this adds to the slightly surreal and dreamlike impression that this book gives. A kingdom shrouded by mists where monsters dwell. And sometimes monsters wear human clothing…

I would say that my only complaint is that I didn’t like Elspeth’s love interest as much as any other characters. Ravyn isn’t bad per se… He is just blah. Dark and brooding with a hidden heart of gold – we’ve seen that done a hundred times over. He gets lost in the background any time Elm or Emory or even Ione are in the scene. And honestly, Elspeth had a lot more chemistry with all of them instead of Ravyn. 

Other than that, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, because there are a lot of unanswered questions left in the story and some rather unpleasant revelations. I also want to know what happened to the Shepherd King to turn him into the monster he became. Oh, and the events at the end of the book 1 definitely need an answer. It’s not a cliffhanger, by any means, it’s just not a happy ending you would expect from YA. Then again, this is not a world that thrives on happy endings.

PS: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Equinox by David Towsey

Stars: 3 out of 5

There is a fascinating premise in this book. What if all humans have two souls inhabiting one body? One has the reigns during the day, the other one during the night? And those are completely different people. They have different names and personalities. They want different things in life. They have different professions. Heck, most of them are even married to different people either night or day. Or married at night but single during the day. Or the night-brother had committed a crime and stays in prison during the night, but their day-brother is released to live their life every morning because it’s not fair to punish both souls for the mistakes of just one. 

Some people are lucky enough to live harmoniously with their night or day sibling. Some even hold the same profession on both sides of the ettienne. Others are not so lucky. In fact, it seems like a horrible way to live, if you think about it. You wake up every morning/night next to a stranger that your day/night sibling is married to. How awkward is that? It also seems like one sibling will be more dominant over the other.

Like in the case of our protagonist. The night brother is a special inspector, so his job takes precedence over his day brother who is a musician. When the inspector has to leave town on an investigation, the day brother has no choice but to follow, no matter how inconvenient that is for his professional and personal life. 

I would have loved to explore this fascinating world a bit more. Like what happens to the children of those married couples? If the night sister is the mother of the children, but the day sister is unmarried and leads a completely different life, who takes care of the children during the day? Especially when they are babies? Does the day sister have a choice in the matter or is she forced to care for them no matter what? Wouldn’t that create resentment between the siblings? Wouldn’t the children suffer because of that?

The mystery itself is rather complex and progresses at a very leisury pace. In fact almost half the book is setup, and even though the story picks up in the second half, it can still be a slog. There are also some leaps of logic that I found hard to follow. And some plot holes that were rather glaring. Like we are expressly told that the father packed up his family and left town after his wife was arrested. Yet, both the oldest and the youngest children are conveniently present to be sacrificed for the ritual. How did that happen? Also, where is the middle sister and the father? Also, this horrible murder of children isn’t even mentioned or addressed in any way afterwards. And the mother doesn’t express a single ounce of grief or regret over it. And that is the night-sister that gave birth and raised those children. 

All in all, it was interesting mostly for the unique concept and worldbuilding, but I wasn’t totally onboard for the story itself. And while I liked both Christophor and Alexander, I wasn’t as thrilled with the other characters in this book. And I would have loved a few more answers to the day-to-day conundrum that having two souls in one body represents, because from where I stand, this is the definition of hell.

PS: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Well of Ascension (The Mistborn Saga 2) by Brandon Sanderson

Stars: 5 out of 5

This book is a big step up from the first book in the series, at least in my opinion. The story is top notch, the stakes are higher than ever, and there is substantial character development. In short, everything I like in my books. 

We had left Vin and Kelsier’s old crew in charge of the city of Luthadel, the capital of the Final Empire, right after Vin killed the Lord Ruler, thus ending over a thousand years of tyranny. It was a happy ending, of sorts, with the big bad deposited, and our heroes triumphant… minus Kelsier that is, and yes, I’m still salty about that one.

In this book, we deal with the aftermath. What happens after the revolution? After the dead are buried, the victory is celebrated, and people need to decided how to keep on living. There is a city to run, mouths to feed, order to be maintained… all of that while the rest of the Final Empire dissolves into bloody wars as nobles everywhere fight for power and a chance to declare themselves king of a small domain. Which means less people to work the fields and harvest food. And winter is coming. Now, there are three armies at the gates of Luthadel, the Assembly inside the city doesn’t accept Elend’s authority… oh, and the mists linger longer and longer after sunrise, and they started killing people.

I loved that the author put all of his characters through the wringer in this book. Vin, Elend, Sazed, and everyone else had some hard decisions to make, that came with great losses and responsibilities, and, yes, guilt they had to live with afterwards.

And because of that character growth, the relationship between Vin and Elend feels a lot more grounded. It’s not teenage inta-love anymore. They are allies, they trust each other, they are one another’s port in a storm and a strong shoulder to rely on when things get tough. This realization comes a bit later in the book for Vin, because she was still operating under the impression that she had to protect poor weak Elend, being a Mistborn and all. I love that she comes to realize that there are different kinds of strengths, and not having Allomantic powers doesn’t make a person weak or useless. I was on board and fully invested in their relationship in this book while it was mostly eye-rolling in the first one.

Sazed also had some major obstacles to overcome in this book, and I’m not sure where this left him. Damaged, certainly. Disillusioned, most definitely. Heartbroken. I think it was a hard realization for someone who spent his life preserving lore and memories, to discover that none of the religions he remembers could help him at the moment he needed it the most. Or that the greatest prophecy of his people, the one that brought about the Final Empire, was a lie. Something perverted by a greater evil.

I also loved how the stakes kept getting higher and higher in this book. It starts with a besieged city, which is already a desperate situation. But it ends with a much bigger catastrophe and even the annihilation of a whole caste of people, if Terris has truly been sacked by the Steel Inquisitors.

Our heroes fought against a tyrant, but in doing so, they brought something much worse into the world. The question is, what are they going to do about it now? I can’t wait to start book three and find out.

PS: This book had been languishing on my TBR list since 2014. I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it.

The Bladed Faith (The Vagrant Gods 1) by David Dalglish

Stars: 2 out of 5

DNF at 45%.

There are the makings of a good book in there, that’s why I am not giving it a one star review, but the execution was sorely lacking, at least for my taste.

First of all, it drags. Even the battles move slowly and the narrative parts between them are never-ending. We get a long training montage at the beginning of the book that was interesting for the first 10 pages, but rapidly lost my goodwill after it dragged and dragged. 

I think the reason for that is because even though the characters acquire new skills and evolve physically, they never grow mentally. I found that the character development is next to null in this book. I never got to bond with the characters because I was never allowed in their heads. What drives them? 

Why does Cyrus decide to endure this harsh training? Just because he was told that he could become the avenger of his people? He didn’t strike me as someone that selfless and patriotic at the beginning of the book. I would understand this better is I was privy to his inner thoughts and doubts instead of just his relentless training. 

Same goes for all the other characters. They are kind of there and going through the motions, but I can’t picture them in my head. They are not “alive” to me. I am a character-driven reader, I don’t do well with books that lack those. I can forgive a lot of flaws and plot-holes as long as I’m invested in the characters. Here, I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some interesting ideas in this book. The whole idea of the origin of divinity is one I would have loved to know more about. This is one of the reasons I kept reading for as long as I did. But then I caught myself skipping pages upon pages and stopping just to read the major plot points. That’s when I knew that it was time to abandon ship. 

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Empire of Exiles (Books of the Usurper 1) by Erin M. Evans

Stars: 4 out of 5

Sometimes you pick up a book because you like the cover or the blurb and discover a hidden gem. This is what happened to me with Empire of Exiles. I haven’t read other books by this author, so this book was a surprise hit for me. Now I have a new series to look forward to and a new author to follow!

I loved how complex and “lived in” this world feels. There is history there. There is a past. The different races feel distinct but also plausible, with their own religions, philosophies and physical attributes that don’t feel shoehorned into the story just for the sake of diversity. I would love to explore Semilla more in future books. 

The empire itself is an interesting construct. Like the title of the book says, it’s an empire of exiles or of refugees, since all the races who call it home fled their native lands facing extermination by a common enemy – the changelings. Desperation and the threat of extermination are sure to force people to cooperate, but I love what they created out of the ashes. An empire that assimilated all these religions and philosophies and let them coexist. 

This world wouldn’t be as memorable if it wasn’t populated by such vivid characters. I loved all of the protagonists in this story. They felt real. Sure, they had their quirks and their moments of weakness, but they always felt like people. I couldn’t help but feel Quill’s pain and confusion when his best friend dies in front of him after committing a crime that was completely out of character for him. I rooted for Amadea the more I discovered the depth of horror her childhood has been. Seriously, how did she manage to piece herself together and remain a functional human being after everything she’d been subjected to? I loved all the specialists in the archives and was truly worried about them when their affinities seemed to overwhelm them.

Speaking of the Archives, what a wonderful concept! A central repository of all the knowledge those fleeing nations brought to Semilla when they arrived ahead of a horde of changellings. Where all scrolls, works of art, religious text and everything else is perfectly preserved for future generations.

The magical system is also rather unique. I would like to learn more about it in future books. Especially what differentiates a specialist from a sorcerer, and is that what Yinnii is now? How would that affect the rest of her life?

My only complaint about this book is that the budding love stories feel forced. I mean, there is way too much blushing and stuttering during conversations. I would understand that from teenagers like Quill and Yinnii, but Amadea is in her thirties, so why does she behave like a hormonal teenager who never had a crush? That read so false that it took me out of the story.

Other then that small complaint though, I absolutely loved this book. I can’t wait to explore this world more in the next installments. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered, after all. Like is the world behind the Salt Wall really as desolate as we are lead to believe? What really happened with the changellings? What was the Usurper’s endgame and why did he need Amadea for it? I’m definitely picking up the next book.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews

Stars: 2 out of 5

Well, this was a disappointment. Do you sometimes happen across a book that should, by all accounts, be right up your alley, but realize that it’s a complete miss? This is what happened to me with this book.

First, I didn’t like the worldbuilding itself. The world is too reminiscent of the Roman Empire with a little bit of magic added for good form. Oh and a monotheistic religion that mirrors what Christianity became at it’s worse – intolerance towards other religions, Inquisition, and witch hunts. Though in this case, we should probably say mage hunts. Other than those parts, the world itself has no originality. There is nothing that makes it unique or memorable, or even “fantasy”.

I am still fuzzy about the geography of this world or the different people who live in it. We talk about the forest tribes and the Empire, but it’s mentioned that the Empire conquered a lot of other people as well… yet I don’t see this diversity in the book. Even the tribes looked like a monolithic block to me, despite the fact that Emlyn mentions several times that each tribe is unique. We are told that, but we aren’t shown it.

Same with the Empire itself. It’s just an homogeneous mass of soldiers to me. I can’t even tell you what the main characters look like. Kyron is supposedly descended from the tribes, so does he look different than another citizen of the Empire? One descended from the original invaders that came from overseas? No clue. 

Speaking of that, why is the capital of the Empire on this new continent if the Empire originated elsewhere? Who governs that part of the Empire? Are they aware of the death of the Emperor and all the drama that follows? There is no mention of that. It’s hinted that it’s a big territory, yet it’s not important enough to even mention more than once in the story?

This moves into the second problem I had with this book. There is no sense of scale. The author hints at a huge continent and the Emperor is somewhere north of it with his army… yet it takes them what, one or two weeks to get back out of the forest and almost to the capital? Considering that they were moving on forest trails and with heavy carts full of with provisions, as well as the Emperor’s body, they weren’t moving very fast. Probably even slower as than a normal march. So if this was a big continent, it would have taken them a month or two to get out of the forest and into proper roads. And the author mentions that it took the Princess and her retinue a week to sail to the city with the bridge… yet they were back in the capital rather quickly after that battle. This creates such a confusion about geography and distances. I don’t “see” this world at all, thus I’m not interested in it.

Finally, I didn’t click with the two protagonists either, though I liked Bogan better than the whiny Kyron. Yes, the kid does some growing up in the course of the story, but he is still as selfish in the end as he was in the beginning. And his actions at the end of the book only prove it. His grandfather begged him to leave and do nothing. His master begged him to leave and do nothing. Heck, a lot of other people who know what they were talking about begged him to just save himself. Did he listen to any of them? Of course not. And by acting against the wishes of the person he is trying to save, he makes things so much worse…

Also, if found that the ending was at least 60 pages too long. The battle at the bridge was a very nice climax to the story with a great emotional payoff… but then the story kept going… and going… and going. Frankly, I lost interest and started just scrolling to the end, reading a word here or there. Even the twist and the big reveal didn’t manage to recapture my attention. I think it’s because that twist is so out of character for the actual villain of the story. Either that or Bodan can’t read people to save his life. 

If this book is a standalone, then the story isn’t wrapped up by the end. If it’s the first in a series, unfortunately, it didn’t make me interested enough to wait for the next one.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Savage Legion (Savage Rebellion 1) by Matt Wallace

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.

Into the Broken Lands by Tanya Huff

Stars: 5 out of 5

I absolutely loved this story! The setting is unique and the characters are memorable. Exactly what I need in a fantasy book. 

This story is in fact two stories told parallel to each other. One is about the journey of a young heir to a powerful city, charged with bringing magical fuel out of the Broken Lands to keep the flame going that protects his city. The other one is of his uncle who undertook the same journey over 50 years ago. The common denominator for both stories is Nonnie – the last living weapon created by the mages before they annihilated each other and created the Broken Lands.

It is interesting to follow two similar journeys of two different parties of characters. Their mission is the same. Their destination is the same. They are going into the same lands… but their stories are as different as the Broken Lands themselves.

The Broken Lands, what an intriguing concept! Image a land created by magic, and then scarred by the same magic during a horrible war. There are fixed points in the landscape – places that stay the same, no matter what happens. Everything else is… malleable, mutable, and definitely hostile to outsiders. See, the road between two fixed points can take a day during the first journey and meander for four during the next one. It can cross a lush forest one time and become a murderous swamp other. Landscape, weather, and even time are not set in stone. 

This makes both journeys fascinating. Just because Ryan and his crew have the accounts of his uncle’s journey, their own adventure takes a different turn. They never cross the same landscape, apart from those fixed points. And I think that is the point of this book, no pun intended: each team gets their own share of trials, tailored specifically to them, like that dark tunnel in the cave that was the second fixed point. The Broken Lands force them to confront their own fears and insecurities an emerge on the other end changed. Some for the better, some for the worse, but always as a consequence of their own choices.

That’s another thing I loved about this book. There isn’t a big bad to fight against here. Yes, the mages who created the Broken Lands were horrible beings (I wouldn’t even call them human by now), but they are dead. The horrors they left behind stay in the Broken Lands. There isn’t immediate danger to the lands around them (apart from some incursions). Our protagonists choose to cross the boundary and travel these lands, so all the horrors they encounter are the consequence of their own choices. You could say that what they find in the Broken Lands is a confrontation with themselves. It’s a crucible, in which they either crumble or are mended into a better version of themselves.

And all the characters are memorable, even those you begin to hate by the end of the book. Which is no small feat, considering that we have two distinct groups of around eight people each (even though not all of them make it back out of the Broken Lands). They all felt distinct and “alive”, and I mourned those who were left in the Broken Lands along with their surviving companions, because they weren’t just numbers, they were people.

Nonnie is the glue that holds his story together. It’s amazing to see how much she’d grown between the story journeys – from a weapon that barely spoke and didn’t even consider herself as a person, who could have feelings and desires, and who was forced to undertake the trip into the Broken Lands, to someone fully accepted into a community, valued and respected, who chose to accompany this new group because of a promise she’d made to a friend. And she knows that the Broken Lands test people both physically and mentally, so she lets her companions make sometimes stupid choice because she knows they need to go through those trials. Like she lets Ryan find out for himself what his precious fuel really is, and make his own decision about what he wants to do with that knowledge. Just like she let his uncle fifty years ago.

I will definitely check out other books by Tanya Huff because I was impressed with her imagination and storytelling. 

PS: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.