Rather than a clear “good guy” or “bad guy,” Armstrong creates characters who are tortured by perceptions of goodness and evil. “Evlontians know that with each act they commit, they empower either the darkness or the light,” he writes, a philosophy that inspires the fear that harboring any darkness inside oneself they must make one evil, as well as the conviction that if a choice benefits the greater good, no matter how evil it may seem, it must still be good. Readers will likely relate to Magnus the most, as his internal conflict and fears make his struggles often seem more difficult than Cassius’s, who literally fights the darkness inside him.
As Cassian armies clash with Evlontians, characters and readers alike will wonder about the nature of prophecy, since each intense battle’s outcome and each character’s choice appears to be already set for them. Armstrong suggests, though, interpretation is everything, and that choice and prophecy can be the same. The detailed, sometimes dense story line and insight into character and history will please fans of thoughtful fantasy.
Takeaway: Fantasy readers will find the swords, sorcery, and magical entities they’re looking for in this high-stakes war of good versus evil.
Great for fans of:Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon's Daughter, Eve Forward’s Villains by Necessity.
Design and typography: C
Marketing copy: A