Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 17 hours, 6 minutes
“What better thing to build than the world?” The words of a star god are both prophecy and law, especially on the world of Maricol where the gods themselves are both pieces on the board, as well as players of the game. And quite a game it is, spanning empires and eons, the living and the dead.
The night of the Inferno marked a change for the world as the Ashion bloodline was destroyed, root and branch, by the ruling family of Daijal. With one exception. The Iverson’s kept one child alive, the last of her line, Eimarille, daughter of Queen Ophelia Rourke, who alone of all the nobles in Ashion retains the ability to call forth starfire, to use magic without wand or mechanical device. At the command of the star god Innis, who saved her from the Inferno, Eimarille has bent her neck and acceded to Bernard Iverson, King of Daijal, and become his ward, wife to his son, mother to his grandson.
And she will be his death.
The world will pay for the life she lost. Ashion’s throne will be hers, and neither mortal nor god will stand in her way. Not with both starfire and the dead hers to command. But Eimarille is not the only survivor of that night, and not the only one left with the ability to shape starfire.
Let the war begin.
The Prince’s Poisoned Vow is the first book in the Infernal War Saga, and I have very mixed feelings about it. First, this isn’t a traditional fantasy story with a beginning, middle, and end; it’s the initial entry into an epic adventure, which means it spends a great deal of time introducing us to the cast of thousands, to the world, to the kingdoms, to the politics, alliances, and interconnected threads that will tangle throughout the book. This book also speeds along, and between page one and page 628, over 20 years have passed. And that’s one of my personal issues with this book. To be honest, I think Turner is strongest when focused on the intimacy and immediacy of a character or characters living through grand events, with their small and personal moments serving to highlight just how big the cataclysmic events going in the background are. Here, the focus is on the events themselves, rather than the characters, and it left me feeling a bit distant, unable to fully embrace any of the characters because I’m soon whisked along to another character, another kingdom, another life-threatening situation.
That said, the story itself, so far, is absorbing. The world building is a delight, a mix of magic and science — and crumbs dropped here and there to hint at even more — but it does go on a bit. There is a lot of extraneous detail that slows down entire scenes; in the middle of a life or death situation, a blow-by-blow description of opening a bag, sitting on a chair, or what a character is wearing breaks the momentum and the emotional impact. Likewise the recaps when we switch to another POV — and there’s a lot of POV switching — aren’t necessary and feel off putting. I don’t need to be reminded what just happened a few chapters ago and it’s not like this is a new book. It’s all part of the same story.
There are a lot of POV chapters, and a lot of head hopping, so if that’s something you don’t enjoy, you’re going to struggle with this book. However, I don’t think any of the characters introduced are extraneous and each serves to further the story along, though the timing does become an issue. Because this book zips through 20 years, each character is seen for a moment, and then returned to months or even years later, leaving any life they’ve lived or relationships they’ve formed to be inferred rather than explored. Soren, hidden prince and current Warden, and the Imperial Prince Vanya become fuck buddies in one chapter, and the next time we’re in Vanya’s kingdom of Solaria, it’s been a few years, and the two of them are now in a deeply romantic and loving relationship. It makes it hard to really care about any of them, to be honest.
Even so, I do appreciate the variety of relationships going on in this book. Eimarille and her bodyguard, best friend and love, Terilyn; Soren and Vanya in the middle stages of their love affair; Caris and Nathaniel, just starting their romance; Blaine and his husband, Honovi, who have known one another for years. While each couple makes sense, and the moments they have to show off their relationships work, Blaine spends so little time with Honovi, it’s hard to get a read on them as a couple.
The writing is strong, the character voices in their chapters are strong, but none of it quite comes together the way I’ve come to expect from this author. I’m sure a large part of that is because this is the first part of a sprawling epic, which means lots of exposition, explanation, and introduction. Now that that’s all done, I have every expectation for the next book to blow me away. I did enjoy the journey, but I wish I’d had more of a connection the characters to take it with. Even so, I will be waiting to get my greedy hands on the next installment of this series, which — like this one — will also be in audiobook form (though I will probably buy the books, too, because I want to).
The absolutely talented and amazing Gary Furlong was the narrator for this 17 hour book, voicing over 40 named characters from a variety of cultures, kingdoms, genders, and ages, as well as all the assorted background characters. Not only that, he had to do emotional moments of parting, rage-filled yelling, grief stricken children losing their parents, children crying for their mothers, evil scientists mocking dying prisoners, broadsheets, police announcements, and more. And, as ever, he did it so well. If you can, buy the audiobooks for this series (and Turner’s other series) because Gary Furlong is just that good. And so are her books.