“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.”
So what’s the book about?
Young Tané from the eastern kingdom of Seiiki wants nothing more than to become a dragon rider. For in her homeland, dragons are worshipped like gods. When Tané rescues a shipwrecked man and thus breaks the law, she has no idea of the dramatic consequences she will bring about. In the western kingdom of Inys, on the other hand, dragons are considered evil. But as long as Queen Sabran Berethnet rules, the people of her kingdom will be safe. Sabran, however, has long been the target of hired assassins – and is only still alive thanks to her maid Ead. Ead is in fact a mage from the Order of the Secret Tree and is supposed to protect Sabran.
Both kingdoms must now ally despite all their differences, for an ancient powerful dragon, the Nameless One, is awakening. And brings great disaster upon humanity.
“I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- Samantha Shannon has imagined an exciting world with dragons, which is divided into East and West in its world view and beliefs, and the individual chapters are also titled in this very scheme. In addition, the change of perspective between the important protagonists gives a comprehensive insight into the traditions and customs in the different realms. This is an exciting high-fantasy world with different kingdoms, dragons and draconic creatures like basilisks, a mysterious red plague, pirates, magic and a magic tree, plus a secret order, a special belief system called the Six Virtues as well as many legends and myths – the worldbuilding is terrific and makes the heart of every fantasy fan beat faster. This classic setting made me really happy – because even though there is a variety of different themes on the fantasy market, the classic stories are becoming fewer and fewer.
- With her strong female main characters, Samantha Shannon enriches the field of high fantasy, which is usually characterised by male heroes. In addition, the effortless weaving in of diversity stands out positively, with characters of different descent, skin colour, sexuality and ethnicity being given a supporting role. And especially of these strong women, Ead could convince me, who also had the main focus in the book, because she is actually not only the queen’s chambermaid, but has the task of protecting the queen with her special powers. She has real heroine potential. In a country where magic is considered sacrilegious and a reason to be burned at the stake, she practices it directly in the royal house to protect the life of the queen, even though it earns her no thanks. She also does not have the typical “masculine” manner of a heroine, which is often used in fantasy books, but she still remains a woman with feelings. The characters were very multi-faceted and complex. There were protagonists you liked at first sight and there were protagonists you just loathed. All these different characters complemented and balanced each other very well. All of this rounded off the plot wonderfully.
“When history fails to shed light on the truth, myth creates its own.”
What did not work for me!
- The beginning of this book was able to take me away in such a way that I never wanted to leave this world again. Everything is told very slowly and, to be honest, hardly anything happens. Many everyday situations are peppered with little surprises and the focus is always on the culture. So the first 500 pages felt like being snuggled in a warm blanket and drinking a warm tea – simple, but beautiful! But unfortunately, the tide turned and the story picked up extremely out of nowhere. The author tried to cram the whole plot into the last 400 pages without fear of losing it. So everything was only half explained, journeys that had taken ages before were suddenly made possible very quickly and much was somehow illogical because hardly anything was explained. Half of it destroyed what had been carefully built up before and could not leave me satisfied. It would have done the book good if it had at least been divided into two books. Also because the focus on the other characters like Ead became so small that I asked myself why they were only introduced.
“Some truths are safest buried. Some castles best kept in the sky. There’s promise in tales that are yet to be spoken.”
So what are my final thoughts about it?
Actually, I thought the basic plot of the story was good. Divisions of faith, cultural discrepancies, political shenanigans and all connected and interwoven with ancient legends, dragons and magic. The emphasis on female characters was also well done and diversity was woven in very well. But unfortunately, the pacing was so out of line at times that you couldn’t fully enjoy this book. If the second half had been described in more detail, this could have been one of my favourites for this year. Despite all this, I was able to enjoy this world so much that I hope more will be written in this world – even if this is a standalone – because the author was good at larding a beautiful world with interesting characters.
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