*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
This book was a refreshing, diverse urban fantasy story that managed to stand out while still capturing the kick-butt, monster-fighting essence that I think many readers look for in the UF genre!
First let’s talk about our protagonist, Erik. In this book, there are people who are Blooded—descendants of old, powerful beings and have powers based on their bloodline. Erik is one such person. He’s a berserker, and a fairly unusual one for how he’s able to think and calculate while fighting instead of just losing himself to the rage. I loved the berserker aspect because it’s a familiar power, but one you don’t see often. I also just liked Erik himself. He was clever and a good person who wanted to help others, but he was still imperfect enough to be realistic.
The other main character was Lil, a human in another realm. I didn’t connect to her quite as much because she was very serious and stoic, but she was smart and capable and hardworking and cared a lot about her siblings and about saving her world from the darkness.
But talking about the characters brings me to my one real issue with this book: too many POVs—twenty in total. Jumping around so much makes it harder for me to sink into a story and to get to know any of the characters well. It was also hard to keep track of whose head I was in sometimes. That being said, some of them were only a page or two out of the entire book, which meant we got more from the main characters. Also, the POVs were clearly separated. So I still thought the book was good; I just think it could’ve been better, and I could’ve connected to the characters more, with fewer POVs. I know I’m not the only one who dislikes too many POVs, but my advice is to not let this stop you from giving the book a chance if it otherwise sounds like something you’d like.
Back to positive things now… there was so much diversity/inclusivity! Two Black main characters, at least one of whom was gay. And there were more POC and queer characters scattered throughout the story and the worlds, including Asian, non-binary, trans, lesbian, bi, and more. I was confused by changing pronouns sometimes (e.g. one character was sometimes ‘they’, sometimes ‘he’, but in that character’s POV it was ‘ze’), but maybe some of them just used multiple pronouns. The story also touched upon things like racism and homophobia.
The world-building for the other realm was unique and interesting with other beings and magic and a different society. I maybe didn’t quite understand everything about it, but I understood enough to enjoy it. I especially loved how not-human some of the beings were. Some were clouds of mist, or tunnels of sand, or a wheel of flesh covered in eyes. Some communicated with smells and other senses rather than any sort of spoken language. And Arel and Jagi’s POV chapters were a surprising hit for me because I loved learning more about their… species? Like how they had openings on their body where they could extend or retract tentacles, and they could communicate with each other in a more nuanced and private way by entwining their tentacles with each others’. The world-building for our world was cool too with different characters having different powers.
As for the plot, it had some of the action and fight scenes you’d expect, but it was more about Erik coming into his powers and learning about the supernatural, Lil navigating the dangerous political landscape of the Ruling Courts while trying to find a way to stop the deadly darkness, and various other characters and their plans and machinations.
Overall, though I did have an issue with too many POVs, I loved the diversity, the creativity of the magic and creatures, and the refreshingly different urban fantasy story, and I feel invested enough that I want to continue the series!
Anyone who likes urban fantasy, POC and LGBT+ characters, interesting not-human beings, other realms, and a wide range of POVs.