In a place known as The Ledge, a civilization is trapped by a vast chasm and sheer mountain face. Rations are small, living is tough and there is no way to escape without befalling a deathly drop. What’s more, every season the people must present themselves as a human sacrifice to the Glacians – mysterious winged creatures who reside beyond The Ledge.
Dawsyn, axe wielder and only remaining member of her family, has so far avoided the annual culling, but her luck has run out. She is ripped from her icy home with no idea what will happen to her on the other side. Enslaved? Murdered? Worse?
Fortunately, a half-Glacian called Ryon offers to help them both escape, but how can she trust one of the very creatures that plagued her life? Dawsyn is a survivor, and she is not afraid to cut anyone down to live.
This book is a dystopian fantasy romance story following Dawsyn and Ryon. Dawsyn is a woman who has grown up on The Ledge; a mountain village in an extremely harsh environment where the people are forced to live the barest existence just to stay alive, under the rule of the Glacians. People are ‘harvested’ or ‘culled’ from the village and taken away by the Glacians every year for an unknown purpose. We follow Dawsyn’s story as she is taken away from her home where she meets Ryon, a mysterious ‘hybrid’ who has a whole story of his own to tell.
There was a lot I really enjoyed about this book. The story is really intriguing, as we follow Dawsyn’s journey of survival and self-discovery. There are so many fun elements brought in as things unfold, including wayside inns, rebellions, hidden secrets, mysterious mages, daring escapes through the snow, and a host of fun side characters. The setting was one I really enjoyed and felt like the writing did a great job of creating the atmosphere of the story, and the grittiness of Dawsyn’s life. If ever a book made me wish for a white winter, it was this one (minus the survivalism aspect).
The plot kept me intrigued the whole way through. The author really nails a lot of great twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all and thoroughly enjoyed. Often I find these ‘enemies to lovers’ stories are short on plot in favour of romance but I found this one was really well balanced. This book has lots of interesting elements for world building, the potential for a magic system to be developed and just lots of interesting backstory to be explored in terms of lore but on a character level as well. I am hoping more of this comes in future books as there are lots of gaps here in terms of this but as the first book in a trilogy I can understand if that stuff is coming in future instalments.
The pace is fast with lots of action, which kept me turning the pages as things just keep moving forward at a decent pace which was nice. While the ending was a bit rushed, I did like the explosive finale. I do love a good cliffhanger from time to time, and this one delivers a banger.
There is a storyline in this book of an uprising and revolution, which I expected to be built up and drawn out to a major story point for the series. However, it was (as it seems so far at least) concluded in this book, which was an interesting choice by the author in my opinion. I am looking forward to where the story goes from here as it went in a direction I really didn’t expect.
The characters were all really interesting, and I felt the side characters in particular were nailed really well. The main three side characters we meet at the inn all have so much personality, I found it so easy to imagine what them as real people, and not to mention some great LGBTQ+ rep. The banter and interactions are top notch between Dawsyn and Ryon, and their back stories are full of heart and heartbreak that makes you root for them as a couple. Dawsyn is one tough girl that’s for sure, and Ryon was the perfect match for her.
In terms of improvements, there were a few things I found that didn’t work so well for me personally. The main difficulty I had was that the ‘enemies to lovers’ arc just didn’t land for me. I felt like the ‘enemies’ portion of Dawsyn and Ryon’s relationship was great, but it was the transition stage between this and them becoming more that I really didn’t connect with as a reader. They went from ememies to lovers too quickly. It would have worked better if the story had slowed down a bit for them to have more of a stage in between where they understand one another and build a real connection, which there is potential for but it just isn’t given the time to blossom properly. I’m sure others will disagree, so don’t let this put you of reading this. But for me, the magic was lost a bit. Their relationship in the latter half of the book didn’t feel earned to me and I just wasn’t invested in it as much as I would have liked.
The writing style could be a factor in this, as the book is written in third person present tense. I felt like a lot of times things were told to us rather than shown through the story or the characters. I feel this style just isn’t for me personally, and I’m sure others will feel differently.
I also did find a few minor plot points quite confusing honestly, and still couldn’t get my head around their significance or how they even worked fully despite going back and rereading. I won’t say what exactly due to spoilers, other than they were to do with Ryon, his family backstory and his ‘plan’. I will say these are very minor and didn’t impact my reading much overall. Though I did find this to be more of an annoyance.
Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and at the core this book has the bones of a really great story. Things could be a bit more fine tuned overall, and some elements were perhaps not to my taste but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to fans of this sub-genre of fantasy. I would definitely read book two.
Thanks to the author, and to Angry Robot publishing for the review copy over on Netgalley.