Royiora is cast out as a young child, believed to be cursed, but is fortunately found by a soul-matched couple who recognize him for what he is: a powerful mage who can do what no one else can. Roy is raised in love and follows in his father’s footsteps as a healer. Though he has to keep his true abilities a secret, Roy thrives as he learns from different masters, finds favor with the king, and grows into a compassionate man.
Kalo is fortunate as a child to get a place at the institute, and as a true null he is honored. But he learns very quickly that things are not as they seem. Kalo does what he must to survive, and has no choice but to learn what the institute teaches. He’s too soft hearted to do what they want, but he also feels there’s no way out. In the end, Kalo turns into exactly what they want him to be, an assassin for the Trinity.
Roy and Kalo grow up very differently, but one thing they have in common is they are looking for their soul match, the one who will say the words etched on their skin. They both know it will be someone from a different race, as neither recognizes the language. But when Roy and Kalo finally meet, it’s under the worst possible circumstances. For Kalo, it’s a way out he never expected, though it puts his life at risk. Roy has to learn to forgive quickly if they are to have a future together. Roy and Kalo’s journey begins under impossible circumstances, but they are made for each other, and made to make each other stronger.
This book had such an interesting premise I was quick to grab it and ready to give it a spotlight during Self Published Book Week during Reading Challenge Month. Unfortunately, this went wrong from the start, and even though there were some things I liked about the story, overall this epic tale just did not work for me.
There’s a huge cast of characters in this book, and I mean huge, so it’s not always easy to keep them straight, especially when there’s a lot of similar names and no discernible naming convention. What I did like is that the author managed to give both Roy and Kalo unique personalities, and that the people closest to them were distinct enough to recognize. Both the MCs also had a support system, though Kalo’s was much smaller, and their roles were clearly defined. I really appreciated the diverse cast depicting different races, cultures, and gender and sexual identities. I also liked that Roy and Kalo were able to trust and forgive quickly, and that their connection seemed genuine despite the terrible circumstances during which they met.
But sadly, this is about where the good things ended for me with this novel. Right off the bat, there was head hopping between several characters which pulled me out of the story. The author overused epithets to the extreme, so much so that it was hard to follow what was going on and who was saying what. Characters were constantly referred to as “the healer,” “the red-skinned boy,” “the mage,” and lots of similar phrases. The story was told in alternating third-person POV between Roy and Kalo and, even then, these characters thought of themselves by their abilities, their appearance, or their connection to other characters in the scene. It was incredibly confusing, and I constantly had to stop and think about who was who, or how that connection worked.
Unfortunately, the world building here was also lacking. Or rather, it was lacking clear explanation. The whole premise was so interesting, especially as it was clear that Kalo’s culture was so vastly different from Roy’s. But very little was explained clearly, and a great deal had to be inferred. While this isn’t a wholly bad thing, it was incredibly difficult to get absorbed in the story, as I was constantly having to parse out exactly what was going on and how it fit into the greater world.
This story could have benefitted from an editorial pass. The first half of the book is Roy and Kalo’s formative years, bouncing back and forth between the two. This section, for me, was far too slow in pacing. While the information was important, the story didn’t really pick up until both men were grown. Tightening the narrative here would have helped the flow of the story. But other than just content, there were other errors that caught my attention every time. Incorrect speech tags, synonym choice, and grammar pulled me out of the story. Every time there was a modern word peppered in this fantasy tale, it tugged at my brain. And while autonomous body parts usually don’t bother me overmuch, here it stood out clearly and made me wonder if the Healvithis’ tails had a mind of their own.
Over all, this story just didn’t work for me. There was too much lacking in the world building, the pacing was inconsistent, and the writing somewhat bland and littered with errors. An intriguing premise was not enough to save this story. I suggest you give this one a pass.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of ten HUGE prize bundles donated by some fabulous self published authors (you can see the full prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Self Published Book Week here.