Author: Emily B. Martin
Pub. Date: May 26, 2020
A lawless wilderness. A polished court. Individual fates, each on a quest to expose a system of corruption.
The desolate canyons of Alcoro – and the people desperate enough to hide there – couldn’t be more different from the opulent glass palace and lush forests of Moquoia. But the harsh desert and gleaming court are linked through their past, present, and future: a history of abductions in the desert to power Moquoia’s quarries and factories, and a bleak, inhumane future built on the sweat and sacrifice of these bond laborers.
But events unfolding in the present could change everything. In the desert, outlaw Lark – known to most as the Sunshield Bandit – has built a name for herself attacking slavers’ wagons and freeing the captives inside. But while she shakes the foundation of Moquoia’s stratified society, she also has to fight to protect her rescuees – and herself – from the unforgiving world around them.
In the Moquoian court, young ambassador Veran hopes to finally make his mark by dismantling the unjust labor system, if he can navigate the strict hierarchy and inexplicable hostility of the prince.
And caught in the middle of it all, Tamsin is trapped within four walls, the epicenter of a secret political coup to overthrow the Moquoian monarchy and perpetuate the age-old system of injustice.
Separated by seas of trees and sand, the outlaw, the diplomat, and the prisoner are more connected than anyone realizes. Their personal fates might just tip the balance of power in the Eastern World – if that very power doesn’t destroy them first.
This will be a spoiler free review and a thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I nearly DNF’d this book numerous times. I thought the beginning was slow, it was heavy on the in-world politics and I didn’t care about any of the characters. I was also coming off a book that was heavy romance, and there didn’t appear to be any in this book, so I wanted nothing to do with it. It was wordy, though somehow read very quickly. I found myself wondering why I requested in the first place. It probably took me until 50%, or more, before I cared about anything that happened.
This isn’t my favorite book, I enjoyed it for the most part, but I’m actually quite infuriated with how it ended. Now, if you look on Goodreads, nowhere does it hint at there being more than one book. So you can imagine my absolute rage when I got to the end of this book and nothing, and I mean nothing is resolved. I kept swiping on my kindle, expecting there to be more book, but it was like half the book was missing. I’m not talking about something plot lines being left open for the potential for another book, I mean, I genuinely was questioning where the rest of the book was. It felt as if I’d stopped reading mid-sentence.
I’ve since found out that this the first in a duology, so I’m less mad, but I’m still really annoyed. Which is also something I don’t understand. I didn’t love this book, I guessed a lot of plot elements very early on, so the shock value was gone. I finished it because it felt wrong to DNF it at like 20%, and then I just kept reading until I was finished. My strongest feelings are angry ones, for the way it ended, but otherwise, I don’t really feel much else.
As a fantasy it was good. A bit dense, and wordy and kind of heavy on semi-confusing politics, but the world was pretty. The characters were diverse, but I didn’t really wholly buy into their motives. There are a few things that I had issues with, but to talk about them would be blatantly spoilers for moments in the book. These things just seemed to happen kind of out of nowhere or were mentioned in the latter half of the novel, even if they were impacting characters in the beginning. Other things I just don’t understand how they happened, when I can’t figure out how the inciting incident caused it. I had a little trouble figuring out what the characters looked like. I know there were descriptors used, in some instances they came too late, like after the character had already been on the page, and my mind created what I thought they looked like. Then there would be character traits named, and I’d spend time constantly battling my mental image, with what the page said. Also, for the life of me, I couldn’t picture faces. It was like all the characters were these hazy silhouettes, where various shades of skin tone flickered, and hair length changed. But I honestly can’t tell you what the MC’s look like.
I also think I know who’s behind the whole plot that unites all the POVs. I really don’t think I’m wrong, especially with how obvious a lot of the other eventual reveals were very early on.
It’s weird – on one hand, this book could be seen as a lush, vivid, political high fantasy, but on the other, it didn’t impress me. Sometimes that happens.
I know it has a pretty good rating on Goodreads, so people are loving it. I guess I’m just not one of them. I’ll be checking out book 2 when it comes out, especially since it’s a duology, just to wrap up the story, but there isn’t any urgency to find out what happens next. My anger over the ending stems from the way the ending was written, not what actually happened.
I don’t know, honestly. I’d hope to enjoy this book more than I did. If you think it’s something you might like, check it out. It’s out May 26, so the wait isn’t that long!