This book took awhile for me to get into. It’s very dense, and there is a lot of information and characters to sift through. However, once I got into the flow of it, from about the halfway mark on, I very much enjoyed this.
The plot is rather difficult to explain without spoilers, so I’ll keep it simple. We follow different perspectives of people living across a single land, in different positions of power and different kingdoms, as they are slowly invaded by a unified opposing force.
The world building here is very complex, if that’s your sort of thing. There’s three distinct cultures, possibly four if we count the invading force. They have their own hierarchies, their own customs and rituals, and their own ways of thinking. One culture is a matriarchy, another a patriarchy, another governed by priests or priestesses. In one culture men are kept predominantly as slaves, and in another you may not touch anyone, even for a handshake, without first asking consent. There’s a lot of nuance and it can be difficult to keep track of at first.
The characters too are very complex. A lot of them fall into those shades of gray areas where they’re neither inherently good or bad, not really likable or unlikable. I felt differently about some characters than my buddies did at any given moment.
Reviews on this one seem to be split, with some loving the way Hurley has subverted common fantasy tropes, and others frustrated with the story. And I actually do understand the frustration with the story. It’s very slow for most of the book, mostly character driven. This first book feels very distinctly like the prelude to the rest of the story. It doesn’t necessarily feel complete unless you’re willing to continue. There are a lot of loose threads to clean up in future books.
I do think there are some technical issues with it. What stands out most for me is the number of POV characters. I think there were a lot of viewpoints included that didn’t need to be included because Hurley was trying to show us some other side to the story. It felt like she was going for omniscient and just didn’t quite make it. Aside from that- we are not given any clues as to which POV we are seeing most of the time. It resulted in me doubling back several times after reading ahead to figure out who was speaking.
It won me over in the end though, and I’m excited to continue on to book two in December!