The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.
On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.
Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.
Pros – Kepi, women came into power, friendship goals
Cons – Sometimes hard to keep track of who relates to who, plans got a bit convoluted and unnecessarily messy at times
Review – I’m glad to have read this, glad to have a new author to follow in fantasy, glad to have met Kepi and Ren and the world of the Soleri.
I am somewhat less happy that while some people who deserved to die did in fact die in horrifying, but mostly appropriate ways, a lot of people who deserved to have longer stories perished. Also, whether intentional or not, the book begins with more men in power and ends with mainly women in power because the men died to further their plot lines. I found this an amusing turn over of the usual fridging of women to further a man’s plot.
There are some things here that I wasn’t as fond of – in the beginning the constant jumping from unrelated POV to unrelated POV was jarring. Just as one story would get going (Ren facing the Sun’s Justice or Merit’s plans for Dagrun being thwarted for instance) the next chapter would follow a different character. Until I’d say about 50% in there wasn’t a clear leading line of how the different stories came together. It just seemed like a bunch of people in different corners of the world going about their business.
And there are quite a few characters to follow, who’s paths sometimes intersect, but not for very long. We have Arko Hark-Wadi, King of Harkana, summoned by the First Ray (a mouthpiece for the god-emperor) to an audience with the Emperor. Sarra Amunet, the Mother Priestess, who escapes the riots of Solus on her path of ambition. Merit, Arko’s first born daughter and Regent of his Kingdom in all but name, desperately trying to circumvent social laws to be with the man she desires and attain the power she felt was rightfully hers, even if she has to sacrifice her family to do so. Kepi, Arko’s younger daughter, once sent as a wife to the Ferens and now eager to forge her own path away from her family. Ren, sent as a ransom (a hostage) to the Priory ten years ago by Arko, he finds himself unexpectedly released early into a world that wants nothing to do with him or his friends.
Then there’s Saad, the new Protector who wants what Sarra the power wants and isn’t afraid to spill lots of blood to attain it. Dagrun, the King of the Ferens who faces opposition every which way he turns and called a False King by his people. Suten, the current First Ray of the Emperor, and a pettier man you will never meet. Barca, a rebel threatening to seize control. The San, a barbarous race of cannibals and wild men. And the Soleri themselves, who left a map to their secrets in the most frustrating way possible.
While each character is unique, with their own motivations and their own way of handling things, I became somewhat confused by who wanted who dead exactly. Especially in regards to Dagrun, who we see in Merit’s (third person) POV and in Kepi’s (third person) POV…but he isn’t very consistent across both. Its difficult to tell if this is because he is playing his own agenda, one we never learn of firsthand only through supposition and speculation, or if Johnston wanted to show he was playing both sides against the middle and it was a failure of execution.
Overall I enjoyed this book. I found it intriguing, with a lot of the mysteries solved for the moment if not conclusively and a real attachment for Ren and Kepi. While I was not particularly fond of Merit or Sarra (who are more alike than either realizes or wants to acknowledge), I appreciated that they had depth to them and their strategies.
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Published by: TOR
Release: June, 13, 2017
Series: Soleri Book 1
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