Kristoff has created a world and set of characters that I think I will find hard to forget. His first in a set of three fantasy books based in a world with three suns that struggles with the forces between light and dark (or sun and shadow) could seem simple and overly-done, yet he has ensured themes like this are fresh, new and enticing.
The creation of Kristoff’s world (particularly Godsgrave as that is at its focus) is strong and vivid. Kristoff’s way of adding footnotes through the narrator’s voice is also fresh, adding history and depth to his book without weighing the narrative down. However, the language can be dense and overly descriptive, so if you don’t enjoy your novels written in that way, you aren’t going to push through with the story. However, even if you find it hard-going or slow to begin with, try to persevere as the characters and twists speed up (though some of the description remains the same).
In saying that, I really enjoy hearing the narrator: brutal, honest, funny. It is a fresh voice for the genre and keeps you reading this third person narrative. Especially for a plot centred on a sixteen year old’s journey to become part of The Red Church (a place for assassins) in order to be a good enough killer to strike revenge on her enemies.
The characters are also full of depth and intrigue: layered well and interesting. Mia being the protagonist made me consider this to be a young adult novel before I really began to read it; though I don’t think young adults should shy away from it either, just be aware that the content may be a little full on if you have a squeamish stomach. But Mia is also fresh in the way she thinks and the wit she has. Kristoff doesn’t allow secrets out before their time with this growing character (a trait of any hero), but also adds some heart to the idea of a child who “was to murder as maestros are to music”. The balance between head and heart or possibly trying to escape her heart, means Mia is complex: struggling with trying to be an adult and a child, and a friend in a world where having friends shouldn’t be an option.
The secondary characters and backstories are just as interesting to create characters and a world that is as dark and brutal as even the narrator may be (knowing who the narrator is may be a puzzle for a later book in the series).
Overall the book is solid. With titles under his belt already, you would expect Kristoff to write so well. He doesn’t disappoint and the story is fresh and inviting for even new readers to epic fantasy tales. Just watch your stomach if you don’t enjoy a lot of bloodshed.
4 / 5