This is a very good first book in an exciting new fantasy series. It has interesting characters, multiple storylines and focuses more on magic than sword fighting. I’m not a huge fan of books focused on magic, but this isn’t the wizard-wielding type of magic. It’s much more subtle and sinister.
The book is told from several different characters’ perspectives. While sometimes this technique ends up in a jumbled mess, it really works here. The emperor wields something called “bone shard” magic, which allows him to build animal-like beings called “constructs”. These constructs maintain law and order, as well as other functionary duties. The magic is secret and forbidden to everyone. The emperor’s daughter, Lin, is trapped in a palace filled with locked doors. Despite being his heir, the emperor refuses to teach Lin bone shard magic, so she decides to learn on her own and prove her worth.
Jovis is a smuggler that is desperately searching for his wife who was taken 7 years ago. He is following a mysterious stranger in a boat with a blue sail that he believes took her. His search takes him to several of the islands in the empire, where Jovis tries to find information about the ship and avoid capture by a mysterious gang-like entity that he’s double-crossed. During his journey he reluctantly becomes entwined in political intrigue.
Phalue is the daughter of a governor that squanders resources and has more interest in pleasure than ruling. She rejects his attempts to make her into a demure, obedient sycophant and instead trains as a soldier. Her girlfriend Ranami is secretly part of a rebellion intent on toppling the emperor.
Lastly, there is Sand. She is trapped on an island with a lot of people that have no memory of how they got there or their past lives. Their only concern seems to be gathering food all day to feed everyone.
The author does a fantastic job of weaving the various storylines together. It will be really interesting to see how they all connect in future books. There is a tiny bit of worldbuilding, but there are still a lot of things unknown. The main characters are fairly developed, with the exception of Ranami. I suspect we will learn more about her in the next book.
Overall, this was a fascinating fantasy book that I devoured in a couple days. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.