In the land of Etus, disparate heroes and rogues embark on separate adventures that alter the course of their destinies in Seab’s debut dystopian fantasy novel.
As the novel opens, a starving girl named Clarity Burns forages for food in a dark alley. A mysterious man named Barthew rescues her, but she fears that his offer of food and shelter may be too good to be true. Elsewhere in Etus, a young man named Denrel experiences a frightening vision of violent beasts that jolts him to the core of his being. In another remote part of the land, a healer, Willow, tries in vain to save Swiik, an injured female dolfina (a race of sentient dolphins); before her death, Swiik passes an urgent message to Willow, along with a mysterious object called an oddment. Willow tries to decipher the object’s meaning with the help of her friend Geldane and a historian named Everam. Meanwhile, a man named Fillip Brent forms a series of peculiar alliances in an attempt to expose corruption and inequality throughout the land. Seab’s novel is an ambitious but uneven mix of fantasy and political allegory. The multiple storylines keep the narrative moving at a relatively brisk pace, but the various stories and characters rarely connect. In some instances, the novel introduces a character or plotline and quickly drops it, only to suddenly pick it up again much later. For example, Clarity Burns disappears from the story after the second chapter; Seab then introduces several additional characters before finally resuming Clarity’s story, fully halfway through the novel. Some of the storylines work well: Willow’s investigation of the oddment, for example, is intriguing and nicely paced. Fillip Brent’s storyline begins on a promising note but might have benefited from a more concrete connection to the other stories. Overall, the novel gets lost in a maze of character arcs and plot twists.
A fantasy tale that offers some intriguing characters and plotlines but lacks a strong central focus to tie them all together.