[A quick note: It was so refreshing to come across a book that features a MC with a disability. How often do we see that in writing? Especially with everyone calling for more diverse writing, it surprises me. I think this was one of the things I appreciated most about this book. Well done Author!]
Annev is a student of the Academy of Chaenbalu, training to become an Avatar, an artifact retriever. The Academy has stood for centuries, collecting artifacts and housing them in its secret vault. All to rid the world of magic. But Annev has a secret of his own. He was born a Son of Keos, with a missing arm. Moreover, he finds himself at the center of a prophecy. A prophecy that soon brings destruction down upon the Academy, threatening to destroy it and all the people who have kept its secret for hundreds of years.
Artifact hunters, a training school, and detailed world building set the stage for this coming of age story centered around Annev. One of my favorite aspects was Annev’s disability. He was born with a missing arm. It’s extremely rare to find a MC who faces this. Granted, he wore a magical artifact arm in secret to hide his disability. But he still faced struggles because of it. I also liked that Annev was an imperfect character, bullied by school mates, and facing challenges that frequently set him back. While this is a very detailed, slow burn-read, the ending certainly picks up to a rapid pace that keeps you turning pages. It’s well worth the wait.
The world building was extremely detailed. The ideas around the training Academy, artifacts, and a secret village were all unique and fun. Moreover, there’s an entire religion fleshed out, with stories about the gods sprinkled across the pages. All of this helps to explain the artifacts and magic. It’s clear that a great deal of thought and effort were put into this. Because of that, I found myself reading a few chapters a day to keep from overwhelming my brain. I do prefer faster, more concise reads, and the plot felt a little clunky here and there, but that’s just my own tastes. The ending certainly redeemed the book around the 70% mark, and I appreciated that. It also turned much darker at that point.
I think my biggest issue with this story, and the reason it didn’t get a higher star rating from me, was my inability to connect with Annev. Which stemmed entirely from Annev’s decision making. I found myself disagreeing with every single decision he made. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why he liked Myjun so much, other than her beauty. She never gave me any reasons to like her as a character and painted herself as shallow from the beginning, which was reinforced as the story progressed.
Moreover, Annev’s desire to become an Avatar for a regime that frequently clashed with his own moral ideals felt out of character for him. It was made clear to Annev time and again that the Academy viewed things differently, and yet, he did everything to stay and earn his title. He even faked a death assignment to appear worthy of the title. At that point, he should have been questioning the morals of the Academy. Yes, he was young, but late teens can make good decisions when they’ve been fostered appropriately. Yet, his lack of logic (for someone who should possess a good deal of logic from training) made him a character I simply couldn’t relate to. But that’s just me, and everyone is different.
The only character I really liked in the story was Sodar. He was intriguing, wise, and a perfect mentor. I liked that we learned more about him as the story progressed. Yet, Sodar’s character wasn’t enough to truly invest me in the story, which was why I think I struggled at times. Fortunately, the world building and artifact aspect kept my interest up.
This is a book that will appeal to a YA audience more than an adult audience IMO. I think younger adults will relate to Annev’s character more, and anyone who has been bullied. Collecting artifacts, training at an Academy, and magic will reinforce that appeal. While this probably isn’t for everyone, I think readers who are detail oriented will love it. Especially since we see so few male MCs, specifically those with disabilities.
I plan to continue to the next book, as I’m curious to see where Annev’s path leads him, and perhaps he will surprise me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he grows on me. 𝗠𝗬 𝗥𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗡𝗚: 𝟯.𝟱/𝟱 ⭐️
A huge thank you to Blackstone Publishing for sending me a physical copy in exchange for an honest review.