CBR13Bingo: Travel – Travel is actually a big part of developing each Practitioner’s magic, and there’s lots of it in the plot
An epic fantasy with an artifact with world-ending ramifications sounds right up my alley.. except this didn’t quite work out for me.
“I am thinking how much I could have learned from you over the years of our acquaintance if I had known who and what you were.”
He went still as a statue for a long moment before answering. “You might have learned how to be so sure of yourself that you endangered the whole world.”
Practitioner Fenra has been happy living in a village in an outer Mode, far from the City and the political machinations of the White Court. When it becomes clear that Arlyn, one of her patients, intends to travel back to the City to investigate the death of a relative, she agrees to accompany him. But Arlyn hasn’t told her everything, and their arrival in the City sets off a string of events that could end in the destruction of the world.
The character development was excellent. Each character seems quite simple at first: a village woodcarver with a strange illness (Arlyn), a simple village healer (Fenra), and a gunslinger (Elva). But as the book progresses, more layers are revealed through their actions and their internal monologues, as there are first-person POVs from the three main characters as well as the bad guy. To be honest, I wish it hadn’t been spoiled in the synopsis that Arlyn and Xandra are the same person – somewhat. Arlyn swears – and Fenra’s inclined to believe – that he’s a different person now, but Elva has his doubts. And frankly, Xandra isn’t someone I would’ve wanted to meet. In fact, Practitioner Metenari, the guy who forged the documents to summon Arlyn back to the city, shares more than a few traits with Xandra (something Elva isn’t hesitant to point out), including his belief in his own superiority. In contrast, Fenra, the healer who only wanted a quiet life, was my favorite, and honestly the only reason I kept reading the book at some points.
The book is definitely of the “throw you in head-first” school of worldbuilding. Normally this is something I enjoy, but it felt like my confusion lasted for too long with this book over even frequently repeated words like forran. Once I started to understand it, though, the world building grew on me. The idea of Modes – technologically separate areas that Practioners can see the changes to as they travel through but “mundanes” cannot – was absolutely fascinating, and I would’ve liked to have read more about them. Though the magic system remains consistent, each practitioner has a slightly different way of doing things, and I loved that Fenra’s focus on healing infused her whole magical practice.
“Take your time,” I said to Fenra, meaning every word. “Be sure you’re ready. We only have to save the world.”
While I liked the character development and the world-building, where the book fell flat for me was in the pacing and plot. The pacing started out slow and stayed that way. Even with the possible destruction of the world is on the line, the pacing never picked up. And while there was plenty of action, the plot felt like it plodded along as well. It took me a while to get into the book, and then I was never quite hooked. And then all of a sudden, bam, there’s the end of the book. I liked some of the themes – like Fenra’s insistence on what’s important, even when the world is at stake – but it’s a bit lost in the rest of the book.
Overall, despite my love for Fenra and the magical system, the pacing greatly affected my enjoyment of the book. Cautiously recommended for fantasy lovers who don’t mind a slow pace.
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
And a little peek at my bingo card so far!