A woman has the chance to help free humans from an elfin race that has tyrannized them for centuries in Matuska’s debut and start of a proposed fantasy series.
Sabine Rhyonselle is just one of the humans living in the village of Khapor 300 years after the War of the New Dawn devastated the world of Ceryn Roh. The Council of Races, once consisting of humans, the elfin Rüddan, the now-extinct Aethel, and the nearly extinct Dryht, is presently an alliance between humans and Rüddan. The latter, however, treat humans like slaves, enforcing edicts that prohibit reading or the practicing of magic—under penalty of death. After Sabine’s friend Mariel, who’s a healer like Sabine, is publicly executed for possessing scrolls with writing, mentor Auda reveals that Mariel had a record of the true history of the races. This may, for one, call into question humanity’s treaty with the Rüddan. Sabine later encounters and aids an injured stranger who knew her late father, who, she learns, may have been capable of magic and had ties to a rebellion against the Rüddan. It’s best Sabine avoid drawing attention to herself, but she certainly plans on defying the recent Rüddan order restricting births, which would require the healer to kill infants. Matuska combines evocative prose—“The early autumn sky blushed pale pink with the first glow of pre-dawn”—with darker elements, like the nearby ruins of the Dryht city. Sabine is a superb protagonist, overcoming oppression as a human and more specifically as female; she’s afforded far fewer rights than men. There’s an array of twists, involving everything from individuals’ origins and relations to one another to abilities wielded by characters both good and bad. The ending is bound to leave readers pining for a sequel.
Impressive storytelling and assured characterization; sows seeds for books to follow.