It has been months since I last reviewed a book! Shock, horror. Partly, it’s the fault of the PhD–I’ve had some busy deadlines for my thesis, as well as the teaching that comes with it. (Marking 80 essays in essentially 2 weeks is not recommended, nor is it conducive to a happy, relaxed mindset for reading.) I also am happy to report that I finished (the first draft) of a novel myself in that time (don’t try writing a novel while writing a PhD, peoples; sometimes the last thing I wanted to do when not on my ‘day job’ of writing 100k words n 3 years is writing 130k words in just under that.)
BUT I credit this book with getting me out of that slump, in that it interested me enough to get me to keep reading despite the feelings of mild panic at deadlines. I very much enjoyed it, which is also interesting in that for once I didn’t read at the recommendation of a friend but instead at the suggestion of Amazon. (It had a pretty cover, and the blurb did its job well.) Ultimately, Islington didn’t provide anything necessarily new, spectacular, or innovative, but neither did this feel merely like a rote paint-by-numbers fantasy.
Davian is about to fail his trials that will enroll him among the Gifted, the mistrusted magic users of his world (the name of which I cannot for the life of me remember but isn’t really that important anyway). If he fails these trials, he becomes a Shadow, which means his access to magic will be taken away and he will lead a lesser life. The only time he used magic previously, the time he was marked as one of the Gifted, was in a traumatic experience a few years before which he does not remember. The night before his trials, one of the Gifted leaders sends him on a mission to give a strange, magical cube to the person to whom the cube leads him. Davian sets out with Wirr, his best friend, leaving their other good friend Asha behind, and set out on a journey through the neighbouring country (whose name I also can’t remember; it’s been like a month) which is very hostile to the Gifted. But Davian and Wirr have unknowingly had a lucky escape: back at the school, most of the students are massacred and Asha, the one survivor, is turned into a Shadow and her memory wiped.
That is a summary of just the first few chapters; the rest of the storyline is much more complicated to explain (besides, y’know, spoilers) but it unfolds at a good pace and with enough twists and turns to keep up the pace. My one complaint is that I could not keep track of most of the names (cf. my summary)–there are some historical/mythic subplots in here and I literally could not remember if some of the people mentioned were supposed to be evil or good. The magic system was interesting enough and developed in complexity as the story went on–I mean it wasn’t anything fascinating like the use of metals in Mistborn, but neither was it the sort of vague high-fantasy magic. The characters were also engaging; I especially enjoyed Asha’s storyline, though Caeden’s was NOT as interesting as the author clearly hoped.
I seem to be giving everything four stars lately (and perhaps this one is more like 3.5) but I did quite enjoy it and would recommend it. Besides, it helped the creative side get through some manic deadlines, and what more could you ask from fantasy than escapism? It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the turnings of that metaphorical wheel are at least smooth and pleasant.