Stars: 3.5 out of 5.
It’s always interesting to pick up a book written in a world other than the traditional European medieval fantasy. In this case, I think I can see some African roots. To me, that was a breath of fresh air, because I could set aside all of my expectations as to how this story would unfold and just enjoy discovering something new.
The characters are interesting enough, though Jahal started getting on my nerves after a while with his constant repetition that he is not a warrior but a healer. He finds the courage to fight when it counts though. Dalak is… supposed to be alien, I guess. But she mostly comes across as a petulant child who does as she pleases and doesn’t listen to anyone, not even her minder. Isn’t she supposed to be at least a century old? Anaye is by far my favorite – complex and broken, but also very loving and human.
The story itself could have benefited from a good re-read or a good editor. Some passages are really confusing. This is especially the case with the final battle between Dalak and the demon. It’s written in such a confusing way that half the time I wasn’t really sure what was going on.
However, the biggest weakness of this book is that the story is too short. The the author doesn’t have time to explore the world in the details it deserves. There are mentions of demons that only come at night, and that human eye cannot see. There is a mention of two moons. There is even mention of ancient ruins belonging to a different and forgotten civilization… But we never dig any further than that.
So is this a different planet than Earth? Are the demons the native species? Are humans descendants of some colonists that landed on this planet, so the ruins are all that remain of their advanced civilization? Have demons always been there? If so, how did the humans even manage to survive that long? From the little we know, not every village has a warder like Dalak, so how do they defend themselves? It’s repeated several times that a human cannot kill a demon. And if just breathing the spores of a dying demon results in the creation of a child like Dalak, why aren’t there more of them? Why isn’t this known?
In fact, there is no sense of a bigger world in this story. We have these two villages in the jungle. Are there more? Anaye mentions at the beginning of the story that they get refugees sometimes, but it’s never mentioned again. So is humanity reduced to just a series of isolated villages that barely communicate? Are there bigger cities? What about trade? Surely, the population must move around at least a little or there is danger of interbreeding? Those are all the questions I would have loved to have answers to in this story, or at least hints of an answer, but then again, I love digging into the lore of a world the author created. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
PS: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.