As soon as I heard Trudi Canavan was writing a brand new series I knew I would read it as she has never disappointed me as an author before so this book was a must read for me. I made the concious decision NOT to read anything about the book at all, no reviews, no blurbs, nothing, nada! Why? I just wanted the book to be a complete surprise, I didn't want to know anything about it at all. This is not something I would usually do but I had that much faith in Trudi Canavan that I just knew it wouldn't matter as it would be a wonderful book regardless. Was I right to do this? Yes, I think I was......
This is a book of two distinct and very separate halves, the book isn't literally split in half which would have been rubbish but you get several chapters on the one thread in a row before it swaps over to the next and goes back and forth like that throughout the book. Each story thread is very different from the other, they are set in different worlds with completely different people populating them and where one thread is more of an adventure romp, the other is is more of a standard love story, well to start with anyway. Don't get me wrong this is a fantasy book not a romance book but when you read it you'll understand what I mean.
The first thread is about a young man called Tyen Ironsmelter. He is a student to The Academy, is studying archaeology and has magical abilities. He lives in world were magic is slowly failing and is limited. It is believed that his world's steampunk-like technology is using up all of the world's magic faster that ever realised. While on a trip for The Academy he finds an ancient book within an undisturbed tomb. An examination he realises that the book is actually sentient and in time discovers that she used to be a living woman named Vella who was a maker of magical books until she was changed by one of the most famous and greatest sorcerer's in history. Determined to discover more before he hands her over to The Academy he delves into her story and soon discovers the horror behind Vella's tale. She is a store of information that she has gleaned from every person that has ever touched the book and has the potential to be a powerful aide to the world, or even a weapon. What ensues for Tyen is life-changing when The Academy learns of Vella and when Tyen is cruelly labelled a thief he is forced to flee from The Academy and his whole life with Vella clutched in hand.
The second thread is about a girl called Rielle, the daughter of a prominent dyer of cloth. She lives in a totally different world to Tyen, her world is brimming with seemingly endless magic but only the priest are allowed to use it as it is believed that magic corrupts, magic leaves a stain behind when used, a stain that lingers and resembles and inky black smoke. Most people can't see these stains but the priests can, meaning they know when someone has used magic. Priests aren't alone in their ability to see the stains, Rielle can see them too, something she is forced to keep secret for fear of what the priests would do to her if they knew. Rielle's tale has much more of a romantic theme than Tyen's as she meets local artist Izare and they embark on a sweet but secret romance. Rielle's parent would never except a lowly artist as a potential husband for their daughter, they have their eyes set on a man from one of the leading families but Rielle know that she would never be accepted by them, she is too far beneath them despite her parents aspirations for her. This is a tale of forbidden love with a more sinister backdrop of a 'corrupter' within the city who is tricking people into using magic who becomes a part of Rielle's world when they meet and the corrupter realises that Rielle can see the stains just like they can but can Rielle resist the urge to use magic for herself...... even if it means losing Izare forever?
Separately the two stories are beautiful things to read. Tyen's story is fast paced and action packed where Rielle's is more slow-burning and sedate but the burning question is how these two stories connect together as eventually they will have to meet together but it is quite hard to see how and why they would, meaning there are some quite big questions left at the end of the book when they haven't. For some people I guess this might be off-putting but for nosey little me it just makes me more curious for the next book as I have a burning desire to find out how they fit together as I know they are destined to do so. Problem is that I want to know NOW and just know I'll have absolutely no patience in waiting for the next book and the possible answer. Oh, Trudi what are you doing to me?????
Is it a mind-blowingly good?
It's very good indeed, both side of the story are well written, but you would expect this from Trudi Canavan as her fans will quickly tell you.Her language is easy to read but still quite descriptive so you are never lacking for imagery. Her characters are well thought out and draw you right in, I dare anyone not to fall for Izare yourself as you experience Rielle doing just that herself or to not want to join Tyen on his journey and help him if you can.
Is it interesting?
Yes, the two story thread compliment each other perfectly. Where Tyen's story is fast paced and exciting you could easily get burnt out on too much action so the interludes into Rielle's slower story are perfect for slowing the book back down again before shooting back off when you rejoin Tyen again. The mix between the two has been artfully put together and makes for a book that is just simply gripping from start to finish.
Is it enjoyable to read?
Completely, the two stories are both the perfect foil for the other and they seem to fit together within the pages in just the right way, it takes skill to be able to put such different tales together in such a way that doesn't detract from either story thread. There are times when you get so into one thread that when it switches over to the other thread making you wait for the answers you're craving it drives you to distraction waiting for the other thread to resume but then you end up getting into the thread you're on that it happens all over again when it switched over again but I like that about the book.
Was it well written?
Totally, I love the way Trudi writes her book, they are always a pleasure to read and ever so easy to get into. She is easily one of my favourite authors for just this reason. She's effortless to read, always exciting and has never ever disappointed me in any way with any of her work. Her characterisation is always strong and they are always well-rounded and full leaving you with a great sense of who each character is no matter how minor they may be. Each character has their place and purpose and none ever seem to be 'filler' characters. The worlds she writes are well imagined and are easy to understand, her work is descriptive enough to give you an image of the world without being overly-verbose with too much description.
Would you recommend it?
Yes, every day of the week! If you like fantasy novels and have never read any of Trudi's other works then I'd like to know why the hell not? Are you mental? Trudi Canavan is a wonderful author and I've never heard a bad word about her brilliant Black Magician Trilogy, if you haven't read it then you really have to but make sure you read this one too as it is a genuinely wonderful start to what I'm sure is going to be a fantastic new series, personally I cannot wait for the next book as this one had grabbed hold of me and is still lingering days after I finished reading it, a good sign of a good book in my opinion!
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by Thea Wilson