I have mixed feelings about this novel. There were some aspects I liked but others I found disappointing.
The novel opens with Nymia on the slave market. When her cloak is pulled off and the crowd sees her silver hair, they know what kind of dangerous being she is. But she is purchased by Adora, a mysterious woman who dresses oddly yet is very wealthy and has great political influence. Rather than being relegated to the horror of female slavery yet again, Nymia is to be trained to use her special abilities to fight for the kingdom.
I liked the idea of characters with special abilities. Our heroine can control the weather, that is, bring on a storm or have someone struck with lightning. There is another character who has the ability to manipulate the earth and create large chasms. Another has been given a wall of protection while yet another can control another person's thoughts.
I like the idea of a war as the island kingdom of Faelen is being attacked. There are good guys and bad guys and sometimes they seem to morph from one to the other. Like Nymia, I wanted to believe and trust certain characters yet doubted everyone from time to time. The betrayal of characters was so frequent I often had trouble keeping straight who was on whose side.
The war is somewhat twofold. One aspect of it is for Nymia's soul. Will she ever be healed of the pain and horror of what she did as a child? Will she be transformed into a killing machine? The other aspect is the larger war for the survival of Faelen. It is a war against invading evil, although Faelen is not without evil itself. Will evil have the last word and destroy who they are? The latter war reaches its peek with a really great battle scene near the end.
Creating a fantasy world is a difficult task. There is the creation of both the characters and the world they inhabit. Essential to the task is good description. That is one area I felt was inadequate in this book. I had a difficult time “picturing” the landscape, the buildings, the animals. At one point a bolcrane appears. It is slime-covered and black, we read. It is bigger than a horse and has a crocodilian mouth with fangs and jaws that could wrap around a torso. It has a leathery, bloated form with poisoned quills. But what we do not know is something as simple as how many legs it has, the color of its eyes, or if it even has eyes. As I tried to picture the beast, I found myself lacking so much detail I could not do it. A paragraph of chilling description would have greatly enhanced the emotional punch of the scene.
I found the same inhibiting lack of description time after time. When we read of the air ships, there is description about their shape and attachments, but never an indication of color, not even of the “pale balloon” above each one or the dragon painted on the side.
There are some concepts in the novel that would make for interesting discussion. At one point Nymia says, “How can you say it's not a person's fault when he harms others, whether intentionally or not, but then say its honorable when he chooses to help?” (271) Is a person born to do a life task, good or evil? What about being held responsible for such tasks? Nymia has an aversion to killing people and animals, even the enemy, even when she knows that enemy is out to destroy her. That would be a topic for discussion too. Another important issue in the book is Nymia and her feelings of self-loathing, fear, and self-harm. One of the questions in the Reading Group Guide gives a resource for young people struggling with those same feelings.
I would not recommend this book for young teens. There is a somewhat sexual overtone that runs through several of Nymia's experiences that would only be suitable for older teens.
There is a twist at the very end that leaves us hanging. I do hope the next in the trilogy will help me better visualize the people, places, and things.
I'm taking part in a Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour of this book. You can read the reviews of others by following the links below.
Mary Weber lives in California with her husband and their children. You can find out more about her at http://www.maryweber.com/ or follow her on Facebook. (Author photo courtesy of Sarah Kathleen Photography.)
Thomas Nelson, 341 pages. You can buy the book here.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour.