Ariah has lived a sheltered life in a condemning and narrow-minded world. Elves, sexual promiscuity, and those considered of lower class are looked down upon while corruption is everywhere in the government. Elves with specific magical powers called shapers are looked down upon and considered a threat because of their ability to read people. But a whole new world opens up for him when he travels with his mentor, Dirva beyond the Empire where everything is upside down for Ariah, but he starts to wonder if he even belonged in the Empire at all as he develops a strong relationship with Dirva’s brother Sorcha. However, he feels equally connected to Shayat, a strong-minded woman who has high ambitions despite all of the obstacles ahead of her. This is Ariah’s journey as he travels and develops as his own person while navigating the dangers of the Empire, his friends, and even himself.
At first I didn’t get this book. I mean, for most fantasy books, I expect the usual Hero’s Journey formula, which this story doesn’t follow. It’s more like a memoir written by Ariah, but at the same time it’s a lot more than that. While this book was only exciting and gripping about fifty percent of the time, it’s a fantastic read, because it’s so much more than the story.
Honestly, I’m going to have to read this story at least one more time to fully wrap my head around it. Part of it is because I had pictured Ariah in the beginning as maybe thirteen when he was much older, and it was difficult for me to keep up with all of the jumps through time. This book tackles some pretty relevant social issues today, like sexuality, sexism, and race. Homosexuality is condemned in the Empire and women are shunned if they have sex outside of wedlock. And of course, the different races of elves are clearly defined with silver being on top and gold on the bottom, usually as slaves. At least in the Empire. Mixed elves face plenty of discrimination as well. This whole book is about questioning prejudices and just getting rid of them completely.
“If normal means you are shamed for something we both want, for something that we both did, something that hurt no one, wouldn’t you want to be deviant? Some of these rules we have, that we struggle so sometimes they should be torn apart. I know they haven’t been, and I know they might never be, but they should be shattered.”
I love seeing Ariah’s character grow and develop. Most of the changes within him are subtle, but you can clearly see him as he slowly morphs into a more liberal and open-minded person than the Empire will accept.
I love Shayat and Sorcha both as well. Sorcha is light-hearted and funny, but you can definitely tell he has a dark streak, just like you can tell Shayat is a little bit vulnerable underneath all her bravado. They both make great matches for Ariah, and I love how Shayat is more dominant than both Sorcha and Ariah but she’s still likable at the same time.
I had some trouble getting into the book. It was hard to wrap my head totally around Ariah’s world and the close-mindedness just depressed me. It wasn’t until after there was a connection between Sorcha and Ariah that I started to really like the book, and I liked it even more when Shayat was introduced. I also didn’t like the loose ends with many of the characters. We never really meet Dirva’s son or find out what happens to him and his wife, nor do we learn more about Ariah’s other mentor Valothorem, or the heir to the throne. I know that this is Ariah’s life, and that life is full of loose ends, but I kinda want to know, you know? Some spin-off stories would be great, there.
Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing read, and I believe most fantasy and literature-loving adults out there would love this book.
You can buy this book on Powel’s Books.*
*Warning: By purchasing through this affiliate link, you are enabling my addictions to herbal tea, Nutella, more books, and giving to charity.