In a debut fantasy, the first of a series, a young woman begins discovering her hidden strengths in a rebellion-torn land that will soon face a much greater threat.
The city of Vitrisi despises Magnifico Aureste Belandor, a collaborator with the conquering Taerleezi. The only one who loves him unreservedly is his daughter Jianna, a clever, spirited young woman who’s been carefully kept from discovering her father’s true nature. Some hint of the truth slowly dawns when she’s kidnapped en route to her wedding by distant relatives whom her father robbed of their rightful place. Faced with a new marriage with her thuggish cousin, Jianna’s only hope is Falaste Rione, a brilliant doctor loyal to her harsh, vengeance-obsessed prospective mother-in-law, but who develops sympathy for the bride-to-be when she’s forced to serve as his assistant and turns out to be surprisingly competent at it. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everyone but the most skilled arcanists, the entire world is endangered by the imminent reversal of the Source, responsible for maintaining the world’s magical and physical laws; this detail plays only a minor role in the book, but will clearly take center stage in later installments. Brandon’s world-building is acceptably solid and character development is fairly rounded, particularly that of Dr. Rione and Magnifico Vinz Corvestri, a resistance supporter desperate for the love of his dutiful wife. However, other character behaviors seem questionable. Given the Marquis Belandor’s blunt refusal to accept any fact that doesn't accord with his desires, how could he be capable of the subtlety required to reach his present position? Why does the supposedly intelligent Jianna never wonder why none of her noble peers want to associate with her?
A decently accomplished maiden effort; worth hanging in there to see what develops.