“Do not make assumptions about things you know nothing about. An emperor serves his people. The day the people serve the emperor is the day the empire falls. Remember that, Miko, if nothing else. War profits no peasant.”
So what’s the book about?
An empire is on the verge of collapse and three fighters become involved in this war. Each of the three characters experiences the death of the empire through a different perspective. Princess Miko must feel like a prisoner in her family castle and she is more than just a marionette. Rah, too, just wants to live in freedom, but has to fight in a war he can’t identify with. And finally Cassandra, who through strange circumstances takes on an atypical assignment as an assassin. What these three have in common is that they cannot trust anyone, not even their long-time friends or families. And these three, after a betrayal fuels the war, must go their own way, no matter what.
Why I wanted to read this series?
A Grimdark novel that also contains complex political contexts and is set in an Asian-inspired world? Of course I had to buy the book immediately. My absolute favourite genre is grimdark and that’s why I’m always very happy when I read new books from this genre. I want to be emotionally destroyed and then have to cry and wonder how mean humanity can be. That’s why I really wanted to read this book. I discovered it in a Facebook group and was immediately impressed by the great cover and the fact that it was published by Orbit also played its part, because I think Orbit has only published great books.
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- I love political stories and this one is also complex and also comprehensible. At times I had the feeling that this was set in a real world and that all these political couples were real. If someone told me that the story was set in Asia, I would believe it in a heartbeat. The different races that fight against each other build their political intrigues and teams differently, and in doing so, the differences between the individual races can also be seen in their intrigues.
- The aspect that it is an Asian-inspired book was extremely appealing to me. Also like the political realms the world also feels real. I had the feeling that Princess Miko and the royal state she belongs to could be set in Japan, in that there is a certain austerity here. That much is said without talking and that respect is brought to higher ones. On the other hand, Rah reminded me a lot of the Mongols. Who probably sound barbaric to many and the culture is so far removed from the known other Asian cultures, that this race can really only be misunderstood.
- Each character was so exciting in his or her own way that you just have to love all three main characters. Miko, who is somehow reserved and on the other hand is so much more intelligent than her brother who is heir to the throne. Rah, who believes in principles and doesn’t want to change, even though the whole world around him is changing. And Cassandra, who doesn’t actually know what she wants and what she is and what she is getting into. Every character was so genuinely described. Every character trait felt natural and not that the character was forced to do anything.
- The whole story was extremely exciting at every moment. There were always surprising twists and turns that just made you want to read on. You couldn’t put the book down because something exciting was always happening. But these twists don’t seem forced, they fit into the whole storyline. And these twists also make the book a Grimdark story, because after each twist you had to ask yourself why it had to happen now.
- The story was so brutal and dark and also depressing that it really fits into the Grimdark genre. The book just gripped me so emotionally that even after I put it down, it still finished me off. It felt like my heart was ripped in two after almost every chapter. It was an intense story throughout.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
Wow. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this book. It pulled me in from the first second to the last page. I got an extraordinary Grimdark story, with an unbelievably great setting. I could take every single character to my heart, as each one was interesting and versatile in their own way. You could tell which character it was from the first few sentences because each had their own way of thinking. The whole story is fast-paced, but still doesn’t involve as much action as one might think. And that’s what I liked about it. Many readers may seem reminded of Asian-style Game of Thrones, but I have to say that this story stands on its own and I didn’t even have to think of comparing it to other books. Also, Devin Madson is a great narrator as many words were left unspoken and this made you think more and therefore you could link the written story from the author with your own thoughts and everyone can create their very own story as a result. For me, this book was a highlight on all levels. It is one of my top 5 favourite books and if you haven’t read it yet, you definitely need to. You just have to love this book.
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