This book is written by half of the author team that Voltrons into James S.A. Corey. Unfortunately, that means my expectations going into it were VERY high. It was an absolutely fine book, but A of all, it was fantasy, not sci-fi as the recommender claimed; and second of B, it was pretty standard fare for fantasy.
In this fantasy land, poets hold the highest honor in the land, because they can capture concepts and give them form and volition. Once captured, though, the anthropomorphized concepts (called andats) seem to be cranky and eager to escape. Maati is an apprentice poet, watching the ongoing battle between the poet Heshai and the andat Seedless – a concept made flesh that can strip the seeds out of cotton with a gesture, making their city wealthy and prominent because of all the farmers and merchants who flock to it.
Heshai and Seedless hate each other, but depend on each other for existence. When a plan is hatched by a neighboring city (or country – unclear) to take down the city by using Seedless’s power for evil and destroying Heshai’s credibility, it’s up to Maati, his former fellow student Otah (who has a mysterious past, of course), and the somewhat unlikeable woman they both are naturally madly in love with, to set things to rights. There’s also an Avasarala-like character who is working on her own plot to stop the treason, or at least bring justice to the victims. (She was the best part.)
It’s fine. It’s actually probably pretty good, but I just kept thinking of how similar it was to a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay’s stuff, or the Jim Butcher fantasy series, and I like both of those better. And I like the Expanse better. Basically, I just wanted this to be better. It calls itself a quartet, but I haven’t decided yet if I care enough to read all four. It was good enough that I want to know how it ends, though. Maybe I’ll just skip to book four.
Just a possible trigger warning: the plot to take down the andat and the poet is using Seedless’s cotton-stripping ability to abort a wanted fetus from a woman who doesn’t speak the country’s language, and who thinks she’s there for a blessing or something. It’s all pretty unpleasant.