Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.
Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.
So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.
In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.
A fast-paced fantasy with magical creatures for those who enjoy the Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera series) by Jim Butcher, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.
Thank you to Netgalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this did not affect my review in any way.
Going into this book I had been expecting Adult Fantasy as I hadn’t done any research into what subgenre this fit into. The book premise was intriguing and that was all that I cared about. However, I do want to start this review off by saying this is definitely a Young Adult Fantasy. In fact, if it wasn’t for some darker moments during the story, I may have even called it Middle Grade Fantasy.
Once I realized this and adjusted my expectations accordingly I really enjoyed this coming of age story. We follow Volke throughout the book. Volke, because of his parents being criminals, has been given the lowest job of any on the island of Ruma that he calls home, a gravedigger. Along with his best friend Illia and their caretaker William, they see to the graves of those who have passed. Unfortunately in their culture that makes them outcasts.
It was easy to root for Volke from the start. Volke has wanted to be an arcanist for his entire life. To bond with a mystical creature, to wield magic, and do mighty deeds like Gregory Ruma, the arcanist legend that he looks up to, has been his one goal. I really enjoyed Volke’s drive and the way he never let anything get in the way of pursuing his dream. I was also really impressed by the restraint and grace that Volke showed when confronted with bullies and the lies they told about him and those close to him.
Illia, Volke’s best friend, was also interesting as I grew to know her. Illia has a tragic past that has left her one eyed and scarred. She was placed with the gravediggers for her appearance and her “attitude” upon being washed up onshore of the Island of Ruma. I liked how Illia was more than just Volke’s best friend. She is sensitive yet blunt, insecure yet confident and bold. She made for a compelling character to follow.
The different mystical creatures were really cool and had very different and often surprising personalities. Luthair is a stoic knightmare. He is made of shadow armor and carries a sword like a knight. Nicholin is a Rizzell, a ferret like creature. Nicholin was my favorite as he always had a funny quip at the most innopportune times. He kept the story light hearted and fun. There were also phoenixes, a hydra, a leviathan, a stag, and many other creatures that the humans would bond to in order to acquire the power of an arcanist. The magic was also really cool because the type of magic you could do depended on what type of creature you bonded to. For example, a leviathan gives an arcanist power over water and air. Phoenix arcanists can control fire. Rizzel arcanists can teleport themselves and other things/people. I found really interesting to see all the different ways that each could wield magic and the strategy that went behind picking the right creature to bond with.
The plot was pretty straightforward and simple, which is the biggest reason I would call this YA bordering on Middle Grade fantasy. That’s not a knock at all on the story for me. Shami Stovall writes this story very well including showing the complex relationships that the 6 apprentices that this story focuses on have with one another. It was also just a really fun ride as there always seemed to be something going on, some new thing about the magic system to learn, or some mystery to solve.
I enjoyed my time reading this book and will be picking up the 2nd book in the series for sure. The whole series is on Kindle Unlimited and I actually purchased KU so I could read the rest of the series. Happy Reading!