The electrifying first novel of an all-new fantasy series from the legendary author behind the Shannara saga, about a human girl struggling to find her place in a magical world she’s never known.
At nineteen, Auris Afton Grieg has led an . . . unusual life. Since the age of fifteen, she has been trapped in a sinister prison. Why? She does not know. She has no memories of her past beyond the vaguest of impressions. All she knows is that she is about to age out of the children’s prison, and rumors say that the adult version is far, far worse. So she and some friends stage a desperate escape into the surrounding wastelands. And it is here that Auris’s journey of discovery begins, for she is rescued by a handsome yet alien stranger. Harrow claims to be Fae—a member of a magical race that Auris had thought to be no more than legend. Odder still, he seems to think that she is one as well, although the two look nothing alike. But strangest of all, when he brings her to his wondrous homeland, she begins to suspect that he is right. Yet how could a woman who looks entirely human be a magical being herself?
Told with a fresh, energetic voice, this fantasy puzzle box is perfect for fans of Terry Brooks and new readers alike, as one young woman slowly unlocks truths about herself and her world—and, in doing so, begins to heal both.
***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I’ve had the Shannara books on my TBR for a while because I know a lot of people like them. So, when I saw that the first of a new Terry Brooks series was available on NetGalley, I jumped at the opportunity to be introduced to his writing. Now I kind of wish I didn’t. This book wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. The writing and story idea were okay, but the weird pacing and mind-numbing amount of exposition killed a lot of the enjoyment I could have had reading this book. The stiff dialogue also left the characters feeling a bit flat.
The beginning of the book started out with a bang, and it sucked me in immediately. Auris was mysterious and needed to escape a goblin prison. The tension was high, and there was tons of action. Then the pace completely halted upon her rescue, and, for the rest of the first half of the book, she sat in the faerie city having conversations and training. For the second half of the book, she and her new friends bounced in and out of several high risk situations so often, and quickly, I should have gotten whiplash. It all felt incredibly rushed. Ultimately, the pacing was all over the place, and it made the book difficult to love.
The world-building was one of the most interesting things about this book. The fae world that Brooks built was fascinating, and the magic the fae wielded was fun to learn about. I would have loved to get more information about the world in this book, especially the complex relationship between the fae, goblins, and humans. The fae vs. human setup was a great way to explore the theme of industrialization vs. a more natural way of life that respects the land, and I enjoyed the peek of it that was provided in the book. There were also slight glimpses of the history of this world and the politics of the fae, which were all intriguing to see.
I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in this book, as they all felt a bit flat to me. Auris was mysterious at first, and I did enjoy her journey and inner thoughts related to finding her identity, family, and a place to belong. However, I found her to become almost insufferable as the story continued. She mysteriously knew how to use every weapon available, which was never explained. She also learned how to use magic in ONE day. Despite all her strengths and all of the horrible things going on around her, the only thing she could focus on was Harrow, and she pined over him almost instantly. Their relationship was annoying to read because most of the drama could have been resolved by the two of them talking to each other. I also don’t understand what she saw in him other than being enamored because he rescued her. For most of the book, all he did was talk about fae society/history while training her, and he exuded the personality of a wet paper bag.
Ancrow seriously annoyed me in this book, but I also liked some aspects of her characterization. She was an interesting example of how past experiences, especially traumatic ones, with a group of people can leave a person extremely prejudiced against everyone in that group. It explored the question of whether that person’s prejudicial actions are justified/understandable given their circumstances and underscored the importance of context in understanding any individual’s actions. This character’s lies, though, got tedious and annoying as the book progressed, especially since the logic behind the lies made absolutely no sense. My favorite characters of the book were Ancrow’s daughters. They were a breath of fresh air amongst the angst, and I smiled every time they appeared.
Overall, I enjoyed the exploration of the themes of identity and family in this book, as well as the world the author created. However, I didn’t really connect with the characters and found the pacing, dialogue, and character relationships to be lacking. Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, and I’m pretty sure it will be quite some time before I read the Shannara series, as well.