(5/5 ⭐️) “‘There are many ways to conquer a people,’ said Yuri. ‘You can force them to submit by the sword, but that will only get you so far. To truly conquer them, you must make them forget who they are. Little by little, they chip away at what it means to be Izmorozian.’”
This immersive epic fantasy will leave you questioning your allegiance. It will have you rooting for two siblings on opposite sides of a war. Sonya and Sebastian are two very different siblings on different paths. Sonya is one of the famed Rangers of Marzanna, a lethal killer, while her brother Sebastian is an elemental magic user, a tool sought after by the imperial army and possibly the most powerful sorcerer the world has seen. When their father is murdered, both set out on opposite journeys, one to serve the empire, the other to bring it down. The old Izmorozian ways are dying and Sonya wants to do everything in her power to restore old customs to their former glory. This starts by ejecting the empire from her homeland, but such a task is easier said than done. Sebastian is serving the very empire Sonya wishes to remove. He is unknowingly used as a pawn by many and will struggle to make choices for himself between what is good and what is easy. Will their paths bring them together? Will they find a way to reconcile their differences? Or will they be destined to work against each other until one falls?
My new favorite fantasy of 2020! This book is beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. There’s so much originality woven into the pages I could cry. Inspired in part by Polish folklore, every turn is fresh. With rich world building details that felt immersive and realistic, I was transported to the frozen land of Izmoroz. I found myself eager for more than the plot and it’s distinct characters, desperate for a deeper understanding about Izmorozian traditions, culture, and especially the Lady of Marzanna.
Jon Skovron created a unique story that still sticks with me after the final page. Every piece of his plot was meaningful. Each chapter held consequence. I never found any unnecessary filler. That kept the story moving at a rapid pace. For a long book, I didn’t find myself bored a single time. Yet, it was easy to put the book down when I needed to walk away. Some books have too many cliff hangers after each chapter, which can leave one a little jaded for longer stories. That wasn’t the case here. Still, I was glued from page one where we discover just how lethal a Ranger of Marzanna can be.
I loved Sonya’s bad-assery. Her strong female character left me confident, yet there were times that she displayed obvious flaws, times she did not always succeed. I like that she was genuine. Sebastian was even more flawed than his sister. In terms of character depth, his character was darker and carried more faults. Yet, I never found myself hating him because I was there for each moment that shaped him. In the end, his decisions made sense, even if they were a little frustrating. I only hope that we see some redemption in him as the series continues.
If you like political intrigue this story is dripping with it. Every character has deeper motives that aren’t apparent from the beginning. It’s hard to know each, yet I learned to appreciate the characters because I came to know their strengths and weaknesses on a more intimate level. Their voices are all different, so there was never a time I felt stagnant. We get to see the story from multiple points of view, and I really enjoyed that. It added so much depth.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and Orbit books for the ARC. I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to review this beauty. And a huge round of applause for Jon Skovron for his amazing work on what is certain to be a fantastic start to an amazing series!