As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer - the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it's never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy's dangerous soul magic.
When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he'll help her prove she's fit to rule, if she'll help him reclaim his stolen magic.
But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder - and more peril - than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she'll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected... or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.
I had begun reading this novel because I'd received the second book in the series for review but in reading the first, I wanted to give readers the scoop on this before I put out anything on the second. One of the things I love in a novel is something that is unique and I found this a fresh take on fantasy; not only the magic, but also the characters themselves. It was unique and different, an adventurous ride in this first novel.
The first thing you notice is the descriptions of the magical systems. This is not the typical type of magic. Everybody in this world has magic but everyone only has one particular type and if they use any other type, they could risk their souls. Or at least that's what everyone has been told until Amora is forced to flee and finds out magic may not be what she thinks it is, including her own. I loved the way that magic is used in the novel but I also liked that it isn't what the main character expects and that the various types of magic are critical to the resolution of the plot.
The characters are also unique. Amora, the heir to the High Animancer, is bold, confident, and bloodthirsty. She is not your typical coming of age character but still follows the fantasy archetype of the young adventurer that is on a quest. Typically, we see the young boy as the questor so it is nice that the mold is broken and we get the heir as a young woman. In addition, while sheltered, Amora commands respect and doesn't get treated like most women are in our world. She gets told when she isn't being smart but she's never told she's not in charge. The young men around her never take over her quest, even when they are deeply involved and have their own motives for being there.
There are secrets and intrigues. But the pacing of the novel is that of an adventure novel. Amora races from conflict to conflict, discovering secrets and curses along the way, learning about her kingdom and the real ways that magic works as she works to prove herself and find a solution to the problems of the kingdom. While she wants the throne, it is never out of a desire for power but a desire to aid her land. And when she learns the truth of magic and the curses that surround the people she cares about, she faces those truths head on. As plots go, that makes the character admirable even in her darkest moments and makes for an intriguing, complex story.
My only critique is a decision to flip from past to present tense within the story. As a writer, each has their use in a story. Present tense can be powerful to bring a reader into the moment more strongly while past tense typically allows a story to flow easier, especially in action sequences. The mixing of the two tended to throw me out of the story at times but the plot was still fast and the characters incredible.
If you like to see young characters acting differently in fantasy with unique magical systems and curses, this novel might be for you. Each character is different and the intrigue pulls you deeply into the story while the fast paced action will be thrilling for readers.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 magics ~~ Andrea Rittschof
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