“Secrets, secrets are so fun. Secrets, secrets – cut my tongue.”
In a land where magick is heresy and ancient forces manipulate human whims, secrets will tear a fragile peace asunder. Four people stand at the heart of this burgeoning war.
An unproven prince who married a woman forbidden to him.
A sickly boy with a connection to an eldritch beast.
An outcast knight who hides the infidelity of her liege lady.
And a traitorous duke caught between the contradictions of his ideals.
The scope of the worldbuilding in this book is nothing short of incredible. The reader is brought into a fully-developed world, filled with complicated politics, different kingdoms/factions, a rich and varied history, superstitions, religion, and a cast of characters each focused on their own subset of it all. There was so much to uncover within these pages—and I loved every minute of it.
There are four main characters: Eoganell (Eogan), a prince and heir to the Marble Throne; Mirdruell (Mir), one of Eogan’s younger brothers; Loria, an idealistic knight; and Triston, a duke with ambitions that may or may not be for the benefit of his kingdom.
Eogan is twenty, old enough to be considered a man, yet still young enough that he makes mistakes. His parents also don’t include him in many of the royal duties. He’s expected to fulfill his role as prince, but he is kept in the dark about so much of the world’s politics that what happens later in the book is no fault of his own. While I wanted him to succeed, he also made some really dumb decisions, which only hurt him in the end. I kept expecting something really bad to happen to him… And it did, just not in the way I was anticipating.
Mir is thirteen. By his people’s standards, he’ll be considered a man on his next birthday. He has been sickly all of his life, fighting a lung ailment that some believe he was born with, and others think is the work of a curse. (Magick isn’t strictly forbidden in this world, but the primary religion teaches that using it is a sin, and the notion that it may have been used on Mir when he was an infant is a big part of his story from the start.) Because of his lung problem, Mir is more bookish than the rest of the cast, and I really liked that about him.
Loria is also young, around seventeen I think. She has a good heart and is loyal to the Saint-Queen and her heir. Her loyalty is admirable, but it blinds her almost completely to the darkness pervading the royal family. And she is treated poorly, despite all she does for them. Her story was heartbreaking at times, but so damned aggravating at others. That blind loyalty I mentioned? There were times that trait of hers made me want to scream.
Triston is significantly older than the rest of the main characters, and is first introduced as a friend of Eogan’s father. He is determined to do what is right for his kingdom, no matter the cost, but some of what he does is both surprising and frustrating. I liked him—at first. Later in the book, I wanted him gone.
The politics between and within kingdoms was complex, and I never really knew what was going to happen next. Between that, and the writing style itself, it reminded me very strongly of the early books in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. Almost everyone is pitted against everyone else, no one can truly be trusted, and things happen that cause significant upheaval. (I am being intentionally vague here as to avoid spoilers. Just know there is some serious chaos that happens, particularly in the latter half of this book.)
One final note: Every chapter begins with a short snippet from one of the world’s historical texts or literary works, which I found to be a neat addition. Sometimes those short passages pertained directly to the events of the chapter, and sometimes they merely set the tone. Again, I want to mention the depth of the worldbuilding, because it’s absolutely phenomenal.
This was a great book, and I hope there will be more to come in the series.