Genre: Epic Fantasy/Historical Fantasy
I’m a huge fan of epic fantasy, and when we received this book, which has strong historical ties to the Roman Empire, I was quite intrigued. The storyline presented and the ideas behind it were my style: noble-born Tyren Risto is forced to command an obscure post in the Outlands as punishment for standing up to the Marro family. While there, he struggles with his ideas of right and wrong, and injustices done to the Cesini under the Empire’s name. It’s his personal views we see this journey through, with some asides to his father’s point of view to flesh out over-arching plot points. It also gets points in my book for having no magic. While I enjoy magic, it’s good to have something that’s different.
I love books that explore the nature of good and evil – particularly when it concerns war, and how it affects the people. My contention with this book is its themes are oversimplified. We don’t get enough space to really experience this world’s complicated political and social fabrics, and it hindered the story in the end. It was on a personal scale as well; at times I questioned Tyren’s reactions and decisions because they felt too quick in character development. I couldn’t get as much of an emotional or logical sync with these themes because they were rushed too quickly for full impact. Because of this, the story lost its steam and enthusiasm about halfway through.
Really, the minor issues I found could have been fixed by more time within Tyren’s head (or more page space devoted to the world). Internal monologue was skimmed over at times, and had no depth to tackle these big problems Tyren had. There wasn’t enough space for him to figure things out, which in turn made some of the decisions made feel juvenile and jumpy. To be fair, though, he is quite young. I found out about halfway through the book he’s only nineteen. Suddenly, his soldiers’ reticence was clear. I just wish I’d known earlier.
Add to this many names starting with the same letters rushed through this bevy of information, and the background of the world muddled a bit at times. I had to flip back and forth repeatedly to make sure I knew which person/faction was which because of the similar names.
Still, the author’s ability to paint vivid descriptions was quite enjoyable (although there was no clear description of Tyren’s looks, which I found odd), and turns of phrases I found enjoyable in this setting. Much of the story was good, but it needs a push to make it fit more wholly into the genre with which it’s trying to belong.