The Sukai Dynasty has ruled the Phoenix Empire for over a century, their mastery of bone shard magic powering the monstrous constructs that maintain law and order. But now the emperor’s rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but a mysterious illness has stolen her childhood memories and her status as heir to the empire. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and old secrets, Lin vows to reclaim her birthright by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
But the mysteries behind such power are dark and deep, and wielding her family’s magic carries a great cost. When the revolution reaches the gates of the palace itself, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her throne – and save her people.
Publication Date: 8th September 2020
Published By: Orion
Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for organising this blog tour and to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel. I received an uncorrected bound proof copy, which has an absolutely gorgeous cover (not the same as the image).
My copy is now bent and battered and there’s Dr Pepper spilt on it. The spine is broken but the pages aren’t dog-eared because I have a bookmark, and also because I read most of it today. Yes, the actual day of the review; I’ve had a busy week and a cold. Luckily, the Goldsboro Books SFF Fellowship book this month is a special edition hardback, so I’ll have two copies, one for reading and one for best.
Anyway, what is the story about?
The Rosie Synopsis
The Empire is ancient, ruled by a reclusive Emperor who controls everything through ‘constructs’. In order to create this magic, the Emperor uses shards of bone taken from the skulls of 8 year old children every year in a ceremony called the Tithing. Lin, his daughter has no memories that go back further than five years and has no idea why her father is so hard on her and Bayan, his foster son.
Jovis is a smuggler, running from the criminal gang that extorts every trader in the Empire, while he searches for the wife who disappeared seven years before. On Deerhead Island he is roped into saving a child from the Tithing, and sees the destruction of the island as earthquakes send it below the Endless Sea. He fishes what he thinks is a kitten out of the sea to comfort the child he rescued.
Phalue is the daughter of the governor of Nephilanu Island, the Empire’s largest producer and exporter of Caro Nut, a highly prized commodity. The governor has become extremely wealthy on the crop, while his people are barely surviving. Ranami is a bookseller and Phalue’s partner, she’s also a part of the Shardless Few, a rebellion growing against the Emperor.
Through events beyond his control Jovis falls in with Ranami and the Shardless Few, although he doesn’t trust their leader Gio; on Nephilanu Island he finds his future path divided between searching for his wife and helping the rebellion.
In the Imperial capital, Lin discovers secrets, about her father and herself, before taking her own future in hand too.
All of it! No, really, this story kept me engrossed from page one. I have been busy, so until this morning I’d only read about 90 pages. In the five and a half hours I spend today reading, I read the other 345 pages. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop. Time disappeared as I climbed across rooftops with Lin and sailed the Endless Sea with Jovis and Mephi (the kitten-like creature he fished out of the sea), fought in the rebellion against Phalue’s father and the Emperor. It was so good.
The characters were complex and well-written, even Mephi is a distinct personality. They were enjoyable to follow and read about, with their own distinct personalities and motives. The book explores themes of identity, loyalty, right and wrong, and this is embodied in the characters and their actions.
The plot is complex and gripping. I desperately want to read book two now, because I need to know what happens next. The constructs of Mailu are a wild card element that could throw everything into chaos. Jovis has to decide between Lin and the Shardless, what will happen?
My favourite new fantasy novel of 2020 so far. Highly recommended.
Now that’s read and written, I’m going to get dressed. Yes, I know it’s nearly 4pm, but I can still get stuff done today. Like start reading The Seven Doors.