In a land where possessing magic means death, two young men find themselves drawn into a war that spans worlds. Arkenn’s mother could call forth fire, and he uses that same fire to avenge her death, raining it down upon the villagers who called for mage hunters take his parents away. Petran has spent most of his life raised on a ship, his own magic hidden behind a medallion he wears around his neck. His mother could heal, and was killed for it. His father could read the weather and was hung for the crime of piracy … a kinder death than the one that would have awaited him if the city had known of his gift.
These two young men were brought together by fate and torn apart by cruelty. Now, as men, they each dream of their missing half, not knowing just how close they are to finding one another.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. I did not like this book. While it has issues with world building and characterization, my primary problem is with the ending. And it’s a big issue that speaks to the book as a whole, so that’s where we’re going to start. [Note from Jay: I added a lot of spoiler tags here so the ending is not revealed if you don’t want to know details, but still want to read the review.] In any book, there’s a reason why the characters are in the story. The focus might be on their growth and friendships, loves and losses. Or they are the lens through which we see the world. Or maybe there’s a big bad to defeat, an empire to save, a fight to be won. And this book took option three.
Martin (once called Arkenn) is fighting evil in the streets of E’skaara. In a city where magic is outlawed and mages are sent to the temple to be eaten by the Lady, he uses his magic to save innocent people from the demons that lurk in the shadows. There are long periods of him training and fighting, all so he can face down the evil Lady and save his people. However, it feels like it’s all for nothing, because when push comes to shove,Everything Martin went through as a character feels invalidated by the ending of this book. All of his struggles feel just for show. If he’d gone off to be a sheep farmer, the ending would feel the same.
This is the sort of ending I loathe in a book. Everything Martin went through, all of his character motivations of losing his parents, having to hide his identity, and losing his first love are framed as being the fault of the Lady. And he never gets any closureAnd when he does find his lost love, Petran (now called Peter),
Peter’s personality is even less developed. His sole purpose in this book feels like it is to support Martin, even though he’s a mage, himself. Peter watched his father hang, rescued mage children from the city, does his best to be a good person, but it feels like he’s supposed to sit back and do nothing except sleep with Martin, think encouraging thoughts for Martin, and not have a problem with Martin
The world building is a confusing mix with shapeshifting elves, lizard folk demons, other worlds, alien gods, and a lot of telling that is sometimes directly refuted by the characters. For example, we’re told that this world dislikes two men or two women being together. But then no one bats an eye when Peter or Martin show an interest in the same sex. If it’s wrong, why does no one seem to care? Why say it’s wrong when not a single character, through action or words, shows that to be true? I have a lot of nitpicks and questions about the world building, but all of those were swept aside at the ending reveal. The writing is fine, the pacing is fine, but I can not recommend this book.