Rating: DNF
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Queer Grimdark: Finn is no hero, chosen born, or noble. Despite escalating tensions from the Dayigan soldier’s occupation of Feah lands, the happy-go-lucky twenty-five-year-old is content to spend his days fishing and flirting with the other men in his Celtic-like village. But everything changes at their midyear’s eve festival when an angry Dayigan commander catches Finn in the arms of another man. Suddenly framed for murder, he must flee his village or face death.

However, Finn isn’t the Dayigans’ only target. They believe all Feahs are wicked and intend to destroy them by any means necessary. The Feahs’ one hope of stopping the reign of terror is to find a relic forged by dark faeries and able to control chaos magic—and claim it to protect themselves. With the fate of the Feah lands resting on his shoulders, Finn seeks out sorcerers who practice ancient, forbidden magic.

Instead, he finds love with the handsome but fierce head of the sorcerers—and a power he never knew he could possess.

But when the Dayigans strike, can Finn harness the perilous magic to save his people without losing himself in the process?

I DNF’d this book at 46%. There was no single catalyst, scene, or character interaction that turned me off of this book. It was, sadly, just everything altogether. I enjoy a good grimdark story, one where bleakness, bitterness, and violence go hand in hand with apathy, despair, and pain. I enjoy deeply flawed characters, both when they overcome their flaws and when they fall prey to them. I enjoy the catharsis of reading something so — well — grim and dark, and seeing it end, knowing I can put the book down having gotten through the grayness. However, after reading almost half of the book, it didn’t feel grimdark as much as badly constructed fantasy.

This story takes place in a world that feels somewhat a cross between dungeons and dragons and historical fantasy, where the “Celtic-like” village of winged people are being invaded by a Roman-like people and, off to the side, is the Greek-like city of Vohcktaran with olives and wine. However, unlike the Romans, the Roman-adjacent Dayigans seem to be playing at invading, murdering, torturing, and generally bullying the local people while waiting for the greater excuse of starting a religious war. Their leaders have decided that they don’t approve of Finn’s people’s religious beliefs and are currently — at that very moment — rewriting their holy texts so they have a new reason for their invasion. They’ve already moved in 500 soldiers and are killing people left and right, but now they need a better reason to do it than wanting the territory and the resources?

Perhaps I was trying to put too much logic to it, trying to line up the story with what seems to be the obvious influence of the actual Roman invasion and eventual conquering of the British Isles, and that’s on me. This is not that book; this book isn’t about the Romans and the Celts, it’s about the Dayigans and the Celtic-like people called the Feah. So I worked to suspend my disbelief and take the story for what it was, its own thing with its own people and world. And that’s where it fell apart for me.

The Feah are a culture of winged beings. At least that’s what the book implies. What they are in actuality are a race of human-like people who have wings on their backs. They do not have their own culture, their own customs, or their own ways of being. They feel based heavily on the Celtic people, so much so there is no trace of who or what the Feah are or could have been.The buildings they live in, the jewelry and clothing they wear, and the weapons they use seem based on the Celts, not made for the Feah. As for why the wings, I have no idea. They’re not mentioned until they are, and then they’re forgotten.There is no concession made or acknowledgement of the fact that they are a winged race other than that they can fly sometimes.

There are modern words thrown in here and there — parish, academy, template, holster, potato — and modern understandings that just left me confused. The Feah archdruidess has written to other nations (through magic, I guess?) asking for help against the Dayigans, only to have these other kingdoms defer the invitation to get involved in a religious culture war. This leads to conversations and the acknowledgement of a global understanding of the world at large that seems at odds with the rather insular, tribal mindset of the Feah.

“I became more interested in becoming a priestess—that’s like your druidesses, but without the governmental authority.”

This implies that the Feah have a government that overseas and regulates who gets to be a druid priestess (or priest), but the Feah are also implied to be a collection of five tribes. Tribes, not cities, not countries, not kingdoms or nations. Wouldn’t it follow that the priestess of a larger religion in a larger city would be the one more under governmental scrutiny than a tribal priestess? The more I read, the more these little points came up again and again, where the world building was inconsistent, if not downright broken. I felt like I was putting more work into trying to explain the world building of this book than the book itself was.

The characters themselves were adequate. Finn was a young man who liked to fool around and felt bad when bad things happened. The love interest, Laisren, was handsome. Maybe they developed beyond that point, as I did stop reading this book about halfway through. There are several almost moments in this book, but not enough to keep me interested enough to keep reading. Finn and Laisren flirting and eye-fucking each other during a picnic was a solid scene, but they went right from that to the obligatory public love confession, which felt hollow and lackluster. A scene with a druidess watching a group of armed men as her archdruidess teacher seems to give into their demands, wondering how many she can take out in order to save her brother then feels wiped away when the plot brushes away any tension with a breezy fourth-wall break wink and a nod.

Overall, the lengthy descriptions of pottery and furniture, the utter lack of world building, my constant question of “why did you give them wings if they’re only going to be cosmetic?,” and how hard I found it having to piece together the fractured and scattered ghosts of world building caused me to put this book down. It was just too much work for something I’m supposed to enjoy.

Ideally, for a book to work for me I need one of three things: Strong characters, a strong plot, or strong world building. I didn’t find the characters to have any depth, the plot felt forced and patchwork, and the world building was non existent, relying too heavily on the “Celtic-like” influence without shoring it up with anything else. I stopped at 46% percent into the book because it was too much of a struggle to keep going. This is not to say other readers might not find enjoyment in this book, but I had no expectation that the problems I had with the story would be resolved or improved if did I keep going.