My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an incredibly entertaining and beautiful story set in African mythology (West African, I believe). I love mythology, but I had never really been exposed to mythology from this part of the world, so it was a real treat. Besides that aspect, the story itself is an epic quest adventure within a vibrant world with an amazing cast of characters.
The writing is told from three perspectives. Zelie, a diviner. Amari, a princess. And Inan, a prince, and brother to Amari. Diviners are known for their white hair and silver eyes. They would have inherited magic if it did not mysteriously disappear from this world. When magic disappeared, all of those who had already had magic when it disappeared were rounded up and killed – including Zelie’s mother – in the Raid. Amari and Inan grew up in the palace. Their father was the one who initiated the Raid and taught them that magic was evil.
The story begins when the magic starts to resurface, and the king is bent on snuffing magic out again, no matter the cost. There are themes of how power and strength are defined. As well as what is truly evil or not.
The characters in the story are so diverse and flawed. They each face their own cowardice and don’t always make the right choices, which can affect outcomes beyond themselves. Even when motivations and intentions are pure, decisions can still be wrong.
One aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was the use of chapter lengths. The author would write longer chapters when deeper issues and themes or descriptions of worlds were being discussed. But, when the plot picked up or there were fight or action scenes, the chapters would get shorter. It felt like you were rushing with the characters themselves.
There wasn’t a lot of profanity as we know it. A diviner was referred to as a maggot which was a slur. They also had blasphemous words, like Skies or Oh my gods, which would be different words in our culture, but used the same way.
There was one sex scene toward the last third of the book, but it wasn’t graphic. A lot of it was implied, but it would not be hard to know what was implied.
There is a lot of violence in the book. Lots of people are killed, by sword or magic, and some of those deaths and fight scenes are pretty detailed. There is a lot of talk about scars that different characters had.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in West African culture to understand what’s going on, what’s important, and what’s impactful. I can see some glimpses, some foreshadowing into the next book, which I’m not sure when that would come out, but I’m definitely going to put it on my list!