As seen on Stumptown Books
Part of the Non-European Fantasy by Women
I honestly don't even know where to begin with this review. I LOVED this book. And if you look through my review history, you'll know that's a rarity. How do I even write 5-star reviews? I don't get much practice!The story:
The story presented is a simple enough concept: Dev is a smuggler of magical goods. He crosses the Whitefire Mountains in order to smuggle these goods into a neighboring kingdom. This time, his cargo isn't merely a few trinkets or amulets, but a young man, Kiran. Hijinks ensue.The characters:
Sounds simple, right? I thought it was going to be, too. I thought it was going to be formulaic, but immediately I was caught off guard - the narrator changed to Kiran, the young man paying to be smuggled across the border. Not only does it change to him, but it shifts from Dev's first person narration, to Kiran's third person. That means that while we get to listen in on Dev's thoughts and get to know him intimately, Kiran remains a mystery for much longer. I'm pretty sure Dev only swears in his thoughts, never out loud, but I can't find my notes now. Have some examples! These are each character's opening lines.
I knew right from the moment I opened Bren's back room door this job was going to be trouble. See, here's how it should go: Bren, waiting, alone, with a packet on the table and my advance payment in his hand. Simple and no surprises. So when I saw Bren, waiting, not alone, and no package on the table, I got a little twitchy.
Kiran shifted from foot to foot beside a trellis covered in night-blooming jasmine. For the hundredth time, he stared up at the pattern of stars visible above Lizaveta's courtyard wall. The hour of his rendezvous with Dev was fast approaching. Yet without Lizaveta's promised aid, he dared not leave Ninaval.
You can already tell so much about the characters just from those few lines. Dev is abrupt and a little uncouth, Kiran is educated and cautious.
So just the simple act of reading is an enjoyable experience. You jump back and forth between the two narrators, but it is never jolting, it is always a fluid transition. You never get to see the same scene twice, for example. If something happens during Kiran's chapters, Dev's will pick up right where it left off.
This book was character driven. I fell instantly in love with both characters for completely different reasons, but I HAD to know what was going on.The setting:
Like most fantasy novels, we're dropped in the middle of a setting and expected to play catch up. This novel REALLY expects you to play catch up, as the characters drop hints to their back story that we do not get to see until they say it to each other
. This might drive you crazy. I thought it fit in perfectly
. Why would Dev be thinking about his past in simple black and white terms for us to understand? That's not how thoughts work! We only get to see his past when he starts explaining it to Kiran.
A lot of fuss has been made about making the mountains in this book approachable. I live in the PAC NW (obviously, by the name of my blog!) so I get to see beautiful mountains a lot. Driving over the I-405 bridge on a clear day is an amazing treat, offering a view of both Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. I think they are very pretty mountains.
And that's about where my knowledge of mountains ends!
Trust me, you do not need to know anything
about mountains to still find them majestic, gigantic, and deadly in this book. They are the background for the journey part of the novel, but they are just as easy to imagine as any well-written fantasy setting.
Honestly, the first part of the book, being the actual "crossing" part, is a little slow. Everything I said earlier about loving that we don't get the character's pasts right away also means we have to stay interested without much to show for it for a while.
Trust me my friends, it is worth it!The bottom line:
One of my favorite novels of the year so far. The character voices are unique and memorable, without any unnecessary romance, blood, or evilness mucking it up or forcing the characters into stupid decisions.
I loved it.Check back in October for an interview with Courtney Schafer, as well as her Non-European Fantasy by Women recommendations!
Also please note that this book is only $3.99 on the Kindle right now. How can you say no to that? YOU CAN'T.