Stars: 5 out of 5.
Do you have those rare occasions when a book just “click” with you? That you get so immersed in it that you love every single moment. And even if you can see some flaws, they don’t distract you from the pure joy of reading it? Well, that’s what happened to me with Nightwatch on the Hinterlands. I loved it from the very first sentence I read until the last one.
I think a big part of my enjoyment comes from the wonderful characters the author created. Iari and Gaer couldn’t be more different, but they feel so “alive” and interesting that it was a delight to read both of their points of view. You could see how their reluctant partnership slowly progressed and mutated from ambassador and escort to colleagues to friends. They are different and bring different skills and beliefs to the table, but both are very interesting individuals.
I also think that the world seen through our characters’ eyes is also rather unique and fascinating. Technically, it’s a scifi book, because we have space-faring races and spaceships and space stations and high technology weapons like the mecha Iari is wearing. But most of their technology is based on arithmancy and alchemy, so, dare I say, magic. Heck, Iari is part of a religious order of battle monks whose life is dedicated to preventing incursions from the Weep, which is a tear in the reality of the multiverse leading to a not so welcoming layer of it. So is this scifi or is this fantasy or a little bit of both? I’m not sure, but I loved every moment of it.
I need to mention that the blurb mentions that this new series takes place in the same world as the author’s previous books, but since this is the first book I have read by this author, I can’t attest to that. I can however say that this reads perfectly well as a standalone. I was never confused by the worldbuilding, and if I missed some references to the author’s prior works, it wasn’t critical to this story.
The plot of the book is also interesting. What at first looks like a Riev malfunction turns out to have some much bigger, dare I say, earthshattering implications. And I loved how Iari pursued this investigation with a bullheaded determination, no matter how hurt she got in the process. That tenacity is part of what makes her so endearing. That and the fact that she would do anything to protect those she considers friends, even if one of them is the ambassador of a not-so-friendly race that caused the Weep in the first place, and the other is a Riev – who, until recently, was considered machinery, not an actual person.
The whole idea about Riev is fascinating as well, though rather horrifying. They are basically the ultimate Frankenstein monsters – a fusion of dead people and mecha, held together with alchemy and arithmancy. Especially considering what we learn as the story progresses – that they retain some sort of consciousness and sense of self. I believe that Oversight was created precisely to suppress that, and once it had been disabled, the Riev started thinking for themselves again. Some better than others. I would be interested in exploring the implications of this further in the next book.
And while the main intrigue of this book has been resolved by the end, there are a lot of thread still left untied. Plus we have a whole new set of questions to answer. So I would say that that this book sets up the series quite nicely.
All in all, this was an excellent first book in a series and a good introduction to a fascinating world for those who aren’t familiar with the author’s other books. I will definitely pick up the next book in the series.