Published by Bloomsbury (2.26.2019)
Genres: Adult, High Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 827 pages
Source: I own it
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
Upon finishing this book, the main emotion I felt was relief. It seriously took me thirty days to finish this book, you guys. THIRTY. DAYS. I can’t think of any other book that I’ve ever spent more than a couple of weeks on that I didn’t DNF (or hate, it did take me three months to finish Brisingr and it was AWFUL). Me after finishing:
It fucking felt like 84 years anyway XD
Honestly, this book was way, WAY too long. Waaaaaay too long. The first 200 pages were absolute agony and the only reasons I kept pushing through were 1) the dragons – the two measly scenes with dragons in the first quarter were EPIC and I desperately wanted more; and 2) because everyone said it picked up after 200 pages. So I stuck it through. And lo and behold, it did actually pick up after 200 pages! When there was action, this book was great. But the lack of action (and kind of plot too, sorry) compounded with the ridiculous length really destroyed what could have been a great – no, amazing – book.
The world building is equal parts impressive and tedious. There’s just SO. MUCH. It was quite overwhelming, actually. Even after finishing I still don’t feel like I have that great of a grasp on the world and the politics of it. There were so many places, and people! It was a lot to take in. I can definitely tell that Shannon spent a lot of thought as well as a great deal of time on the world for this book. Sadly, it seemed to me like she spent too much time on the world building and not a lot on much else. The plot was stagnant for chapters on end (sometimes nearly 100 pages, or more), driving me to extreme boredom as well as frustration. Aside from Ead and Sabran, the characters lacked much inspiration of any kind and I felt practically nothing for any of them, even when a couple of the side characters died. Didn’t bat an eyelash.
The beginning was a serious struggle for me for two reasons: 1) The switching POVs and 2) I didn’t give two shits about any of the characters’ stories except for Tané, and that was only because her chapters were the ones with dragons (and also the only chapters with any action whatsoever in the first 200 pages). The switching POVs really did not work for me in this book. It caused a lot of frustration for me, because every time I’d start to get invested in someone’s story, it would switch to someone else and get boring all over again. EVERY. TIME. I was quite ready to rage quit in the beginning because of that. It did annoy me a lot less once the book picked up overall, though.
The characters. The only characters I felt any real emotion for where Nayimathun (the main dragon) and Aralaq (an ichneumon, which from my understanding was vaguely badger-looking). The only time I felt much of anything was when they were hurt or in danger. The only human characters I remotely cared about or was at all invested in were Ead and Sabran. I hated Roos, and despite Loth being a good man I really didn’t care about him or what happened to him.
Niclays Roos was awful and I absolutely despised his chapters. In the beginning he kind of ruined the book for me. I was struggling already, and his chapters made me struggle all the more because I just wanted them to be over. Honestly, I probably could have just skipped them and it wouldn’t have even made a difference. Hearing his sob story about his lost lover didn’t endear him to me at all. That sounds insensitive, but that’s only because he was a jackass and complete fucking imbecile that cared about exactly no one but his dead lover and himself, and he was basically terrible to everyone around him because of his loss making him bitter. It defined who he was, and I’m pretty sure Jannart (I think that was his name?) wouldn’t have wanted him to do the things he did because of his loss. Also, the way he acted in the end threw me for a loop and kind of bothered me. View Spoiler »He was SO hateful toward Sabran and Ead and was dead set on killing Ead to break Sabran (to “watch the mask of a face crack open”), and was thinking about how much he wanted to see her suffer, then just….stopped. Confessed and surrendered. There was no internal conflict, no decision to give up fighting, nothing. One minute pure hatred, next minute giving up just like that. And then acted like the hate hadn’t even been there. It made zero sense to me whatsoever, and felt WAY out of character for him. I’m salty AF because that little shit more or less got his happy(ish, without Jannart) ending and Ead and Sabran had to be apart for ten years before theirs (which we didn’t even get to see, which also makes me salty AF. At least give us an epilogue with some closure, for crying out loud). « Hide Spoiler
In the beginning I also hated Sabran, and didn’t like Ead’s chapters at all. But somewhere along the line I became invested in them. Ead softened Sabran and made her likable, when in the beginning she was a cold bitch. You learned that it was just a mask she wore for her duties and to protect herself. I did really enjoy the romance between them, too. It was quite beautiful! That was pretty much the only other thing I enjoyed besides the dragons.
Speaking of dragons – I LOVED the concept! There was the evil Draconic army of fire-breathing nasties, led by the Nameless One and his crony Fyredel; then there were the benevolent god-like water dragons of the East. Despite all being dragons, they were two totally different entities and I thought that was awesome! I also loved the concept of the two branches of magic – siden (from the Tree), and sterren (from the stars). So cool! The Orange Tree itself was pretty epic, too. For some reason I really love magical trees in stories! There was also a lot of great diversity with plenty of LGBT & POC characters!
The end battle kind of fell short for me. It left me feeling disappointed in the same way that the Battle of Winterfell did – the fight was intense, sure, until it came to the big baddie and then wham bam it was done and over just like that. No sacrifice. Too quick and easy. Hella underwhelming after all that buildup. View Spoiler »To be honest, I was sure Nayimathun was going to die. Someone important should have died. I feel like it would have been more realistic for at least one of the main players to die. « Hide Spoiler
I just realized this review sounds pretty bad! I didn’t dislike it, but it took FOREVER and that kind of ruined the enjoyment I did get out of it. There were about 500 pages in the middle where I did actually quite enjoy it, and it probably would have been 4 stars if not for the fact that my interested waned yet again toward the end and the book was just too long and slow for my goldfish-short attention span. Lots of people loved this book, and being an Adult high fantasy it’s expected to be slow and heavy in world building. And yes, I totally expected that going in. But I don’t handle tedious plot and snail pacing very well, so I’m afraid it just fell flat for me. But I will say that certain parts really blew me away – mainly the dragons, but there were a few really intense scenes that grabbed me too (before it slowed down and lost me yet again). If the whole book had been like that handful of scenes (because that’s what they were in comparison to the entirety of the book, a handful – maybe 200 pages of dragon action out of 800), I would have loved the shit out of it.
Writing style: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3/5