War, treachery, and star-crossed lovers abound in this high fantasy novel.
The tale follows the stories of three young people. The first is Vesperi Sellwyn, princess of the harsh land of Medua, who is trying to learn how to control a dark “talent” she’s inherited: the ability to summon fire at will. In her culture, the best she can hope for in life is a marriage to a tolerable man. But with her talent and an ambitious, cunning nature, Vesperi intends to make sure that she—not her disabled younger brother—will inherit the throne. Janto Albrecht is prince of Lansera, a pleasanter kingdom hostile to Medua, and is preparing to marry his true love, Serra Gavenstone. But first he must undergo the grueling Murat training to prove he is worthy to become king one day. Meanwhile, Serra learns that her brother, a spy, has been killed in Medua. While she’s still grieving, a member of the mysterious, priestly Brotherhood tells her that she has been chosen by the goddess Madel for a special initiation. As their stories progress, the three characters’ paths draw closer together, and as tensions between Medua and Lansera rise, they are all drawn into a fight for a common cause. Farrell’s (Maya’s Vacation, 2011) book is imaginative, filled with detailed worldbuilding, but rarely bogged down in exposition. Each of the protagonists’ stories is engaging in its own way. Sometimes the author’s constant barrage of concocted words and place names (“chorna moths,” “jurgen,” “Rasselerians,” and “Sheven Teeth,” just to name a few early ones) can get confusing; a glossary would have been helpful. Vesperi is the most intriguing of the three protagonists, despite being the most morally questionable, since she is the only one who appears to have agency from the very beginning. Janto and Serra spend a large portion of the novel following cryptic prophecies from the Brotherhood instead of making their own choices. But they’re still likable enough, and these faults don’t remove the tale’s fun.
This inventive epic about two kingdoms soars above its faults.