In this fantasy, a diplomat, a deserter, and an exile try to find their ways in an imperiled world.
Matteo’s Lands has 97 days until, as the Day of Ascendancy prophesied in the Book of Canons, it will turn upside down. Certain harbingers have begun to occur, so—although some are skeptical—many are busy constructing shelters and attaching mooring lines from buildings to outdoor Hearthstones. The Ascendancy will, it’s said, be followed by a “time of strife” called the Internecion. Facing impending chaos, three young people nonetheless carry on. Hella Pomerain, princess of Pomeria, is a young woman being given her first official assignment as diplomatic envoy. She’s crushed to learn she’ll be sent to faraway Jawhar, an enemy nation “where death or imprisonment was the most likely outcome.” Nevertheless, she vows to do her best. Sebastian Harvellian of Pyros arrives at the Old Keep in Belidor to sit his exams and continue his religious apprenticeship. He longs to make his father, a respected Apostle, proud. In Thelonia, Darian Bronté, a military cadet, endures his training, though he doesn’t fit in well; he has some form of echolalia that forces him to mimic others. But despite their plans, each character’s life gets derailed by conflict, whether political, military, or religious, as the Day of Ascendancy approaches—then begins. Otto (Detonation, 2018) offers a varied, complex realm that comes across vividly, with many hints of deeper waters to explore. His characters are well-developed and intriguing, from Hella’s fiery resolve to Sebastian’s faith to Darian’s ethical searching. In particular, Darian’s disorder is compellingly suggestive; could he use his perfect mimicry to his advantage? The book ends on a maddening cliffhanger, although Otto assures readers that the wait for books 2 and 3 will be short and “incredibly rewarding.”
Rich, layered, and thoughtful worldbuilding, but the ending is frustratingly unresolved.