Spoilers Below! You’ve been warned. Also, all reviews are subjective. My opinions are my own.
To start off with, I have to say I was instantly gripped while reading this. I am listening to this on audiobook, and I have to say that the audiobook narrator does a FANTASTIC job of giving all the side characters unique voices and bringing a vibrant personality into those voices. This is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to, and I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks over the years. If you decide to read this, and you like audiobooks where the narrator uses creative accents and voices, I suggest you pick up the audiobook.
CHARACTERS AND CHARACTERIZATION:
The protagonist Maya is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. She’s a conflicted 18 year old centarch (think Jedi+pyromancy) who’s torn between her desire to help people and her need to follow strict centarch rules. Also she’s the part of a charming LGBT romance.
The protagonist Gyre is Maya’s older brother. He’s a sharp and witty protagonist devoted to rebelling against the centarchs, making him the underdog in this story. If you’ve seen Avatar: Legend of Korra, Gyre had Zaheer vibes. Unfortunately I didn’t like his character arc. He didn’t emotionally grow or change throughout the novel.
Gyre’s romantic interest Kit is a very cliche Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She grated on my nerves occasionally due to how over-the-top cliche she was.
The non-Kit side characters were well described and either loveable or hateable- in other words, well written.
Overall, I give the story’s Characterization a rating of: (B+)
PACING AND STRUCTURE
This book has that special quality of being instantly super-readable. From page one I was drawn in and forced to keep reading. The author’s narrative chops are quite skilled in investing the reader instantly in the world, the characters and the stakes.
The first half of the story is much lower stakes than the second half, making it feel slow paced. I still found the first half an enthralling read. I enjoyed the midpoint twist which upped the stakes and caused the book to become fast paced for the second half.
The book’s structure was good, at times great, but it had a few flaws in my opinion. Gyre’s lack of character growth made the structure ring a little hollow at points.
Overall, I give the story’s Pacing and Structure: (A-)
The premise of the story was ‘two siblings are separated at a young age. One becomes a member of The Establishment, while the other becomes a Rebel against The Establishment.’ In this case, The Establishment is an expy of the Jedi Order from Star Wars. Maya becomes a centarch (basically a Jedi), while Gyre is a rebel seeking to defeat the centarchs.
The plot which follows has Maya unwittingly investigating her brother’s rebellion, trying to catch the dreaded terrorist Halfmask (aka Gyre). Meanwhile Gyre is desperately trying to find any weapon he can use to defeat the Twilight Order in revenge for them kidnapping and brainwashing his older sister, making her into a centarch.
The plot was good. I liked how the Twilight Order were not portrayed as being either good or evil, but a political organization which does it’s best to make the world a better place but frequently falls to corruption due to the corrupt nature of humanity. As I said above, if you’ve watched Legend of Korra, this conflict reminded me of Zaheer’s motivation. Zaheer hates the establishment because they hold the world in stasis, limiting people’s freedom, and have the potential for corruption. Gyre hates the Twilight Order for the same reason. Maya plays the role of Korra. Both Korra and Maya were born with great power, and consequently were forced into the role of enforcing stasis/slavery/corruption upon the world for the sake of saving humanity from a greater evil… and Maya’s not happy about being the lesser of two evils. Great dynamic.
Also, there are many great fight scenes.
The plot could have been stronger, tighter, more refined. I’ll talk more about this in my literary analysis of this book.
Overall, I give the story’s Plot: (B+)
EVERYTHING ELSE (SETTING, WORLDBUILDING, PROSE AND THEME)
This is a High Magic book. There’s lots of magic everywhere. Maya uses the ‘divine’ magic of the centarchs, while Gyre uses the ‘evil’ biological magic of the Ghouls. Ghoul magic isn’t really ‘evil,’ it just has the potential for abuse… just like how the ‘divine’ magic has the potential for abuse. The book does a pretty good job of exploring these potentials for abuse, using either type of magic to control and enslave people.
This is a post-apocalyptic story. The Twilight Order is trying to hold together the remaining scraps of humanity in the wake of the apocalypse. But the Twlight Order is gradually losing their struggle against the apocalypse, and humanity is gradually going extinct. Gyre’s rebels want to defeat the Twilight Order, hoping that by defeating the old regime a new regime can step in and handle the apocalypse better than the old one. And there lies the innate tension in the conflict: defeating the Twilight Order might save humanity, or it might cause the extinction of humanity.
As this is a post-apocalyptic story, there’s ruins and old magic everywhere. I liked it. There’s so much magic that pretty much everyone has an old relic or two, using magic for everyday purposes. It was a unique setting.
I liked the monsters in this book. They’re basically Frankenstein’s Monsters + Zerg. They were truly horrifying monsters.
The theme of ‘siblings fighting on rival sides of a conflict,’ was well implemented.
I give Everything Else: (A+)
This is a good, light book. For all that this is about the apocalypse, this isn’t a grimdark story. All the protagonists are good people who want what’s best for the world. And that’s what makes this story so great- Gyre and Maya, two siblings, are on opposite sides of a conflict, but neither can compromise because they think that compromise will trigger the end of the world. Most of the main and side characters were either good or great, the plot was fun, and the pacing felt deliberate.
STARS: 4.1 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 stars=Perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)
JUDGEMENT: Well written action/combat fantasy, with a few dark moments. Good fun throughout, with some very light political elements.
Overall Rating: Highly Recommended (How I Rate Books)
Genres/Tagwords: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adventure, Adult, YA-ish, Sword and Sorcery, Kickass Female Protagonist, LGBT, Post-Apocalyptic
Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed: