Carey (Miranda and Caliban, 2017, etc.) returns to doorstopper-land with this stand-alone heroic fantasy set in a world whose sky is empty of stars.
It wasn’t always that way. Long ago, the stars grew quarrelsome and rebellious, until Zar the Sun, exasperated, booted them from the heavens to dwell on the Earth as gods—not too bad an exile, seemingly. The rulers of the desert kingdom of Zarkhoum, King Azarkal and his too-numerous, scheming, treacherous family, owe their extended lives to the effect of rhamanthus seeds. However, the goddess Anamuht the Purging Fire hasn’t quickened any for many years, and soon they will run out. Khai, born at the same time as Azarkal’s youngest daughter, princess Zariya, is her shadow, a sort of predestined soul mate, trained in the deep desert by a warrior sect to serve and protect her by any means necessary—yet there is one astounding truth he has not been told. In order for the next crop of rhamanthus seeds to be quickened, so it is foretold, Zariya must wed a foreigner. Meanwhile, a dark god, Miasmus, is stirring. These are some of the elements of a prediction, collectively known as the Scattered Prophesy, according to which, following the usual apocalyptic struggles involving the main characters, the gods will be restored to the sky. On ample display here are Carey’s impressive worldbuilding skills and deft articulation of all the moving parts. Along the way she detonates one massive bombshell of a revelation and provokes frequent raised eyebrows. But the characters owe more to heroic formula than real personality, and once the plot’s fully revealed it slides along on rails right down to the Tolkien-esque ending; despite the glowing details, there’s never a doubt where it’s all going.
A hardworking middle-of-the-roader with limited appeal beyond existing Carey addicts.