When I first started reading this book I was pleased to see that it wasn’t just another cookie cutter high fantasy novel. The characters are interesting and the world is different enough from our world or other fantasy worlds to be engaging, but not so much that I was confused. It starts out like a coming of age story, with the main character, Maia, traveling with a hired killer called a kishion. She is either on the run or in hiding—it’s not clear which and has to make her way across some inhospitable lands to save herself and her kingdom.
But then confusingly, the timing would change and suddenly we’d be back seeing what her life was like as a young child and then growing up. After two or three abrupt shifts like that it becomes clear that she is reliving her past when she falls asleep. Those transitions are very rough, and I almost didn’t make it through the book because I didn’t understand what was going on. That type of writing device can be interesting, but it tends to jerk the reader out of the story. And I didn’t really like that.
I also didn’t like how the main character never seemed to win at anything. Her mother dies in childbirth. Her father is poisoned against her. Her stepmother and sisters hate her and eventually have her banished. She is then stripped of her title. And then when she thinks she gets away it turns out the person helping her is actually her enemy, and she ends up bound to him. I kept expecting the kishion to turn and attack her. Or that she would be exposed as a female magic user and killed. And when none of that happened I was almost disappointed. It was as if the author wanted to make her life as much of a living hell as he could, but not take her to the final step, as then there’d be no story.
I found the back story a bit dense. All the countries and different races and peoples were hard to keep straight in my head. Apparently there is more to Muirwood than I’ve read. I don’t know if reading the first books would help or make things more complicated.
When I finished the book, I was relieved, and interested in reading more about Maia. But as I get further away in time from reading it, I worry that I’m not going to remember enough to have book 2, The Ciphers of Muirwood, make sense. I received both this book and The Ciphers of Muirwood for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.