This is the first in a three book series, or maybe more of a serial, and I will say this first book was good and well-written, but on its own, it didn’t leave a big impression on me. However, the story really ramped up in the next two books, and the series altogether was fantastic! The characters were so complex and flawed. Some of the relationships (romantic, family, and friend) were beautiful, others were heartbreaking. The world and the magic were interesting.
In this book in particular, I noticed that each POV character felt like they had a distinct voice. And the characters were all unique. Here, the notes I took when I finished (before continuing the series):
Keshan is outspoken, charismatic, and strong-willed. He knows what he wants, and he works to get it. He has strong beliefs about right and wrong, regardless of the law or what religious people say. Jandu was more oblivious and naive. I don’t think he really thought too hard about anything before Keshan. He just wanted to enjoy life and not worry about politics. But that made him biased and bigoted toward lower castes. But things started changing with Keshan. And Tarek, I don’t know how he really fits into the story yet. He’s in love with Darvad but it’s unrequited. He’s a lower caste, and maybe that’s why he seems more down-to-earth, but also a bit more downtrodden and desperate. And he lets Darvad tell him what to do and just goes along with it. But in a way that I can understand.
Trigger/content warning for homophobia in the world and also directed at the main characters throughout the series. Very mild spoiler, there is an execution at one point, which is not overly graphic but still difficult to read.
Like I said, I did continue, finished the whole series, and I’m so glad I did! It’s a well-written, interesting m/m high fantasy story with complex and imperfect characters!
Anyone who likes high fantasy worlds, characters with depth and complexity and flaws, characters who change (some for better, some for worse), m/m romance, unique magic systems, lots of struggles and emotions, and bittersweet endings.