[A quick note: This is a pre-publication copy given to me by Orbit for a review. Isn’t it beautiful? This might be one of my favorite covers OF ALL TIME. Seriously. I can’t get over it. If you haven’t read The Ranger of Marzanna, this might be a bit of a spoiler, but I really tried to avoid too much in the way of spoilers. You can read my review for The Ranger of Marzanna here.]
“𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗜 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻. 𝗨𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻, 𝗜 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘃𝗲𝗹 𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁.”—Jon Skovron
Sonya has done her part to push the Empire out of Izmoroz, but the country she thought she knew has a deeper surprise in store. The first battle might be over, but war lurks on the horizon, and Sonya has yet an even bigger part to play. Meanwhile her brother has retreated to Magna Alto with imperial forces in search of atonement, a way to make right the wrongs in his life. Within the capital, betrayal lurks around the corner, traitors hide in plain sight, and everything is about to change.
Multiple POVs, intriguing characters, unassuming political intrigue, and a fast-paced plot made this impossible to put down! Oh how the gods like to play. I do love a good deity rivalry. These gods are ruthless and unforgiving. Humans of the mortal realm are simply game pieces to them. Here we have two female deities, sisters intent on out-maneuvering one another, forming the backbone of the story. Our cast of characters are merely pawns. I enjoyed this perspective.
The chapters moved fast, speeding me through the story. Each followed a different character jumping between Sonya, Sebastian, Jorge, Irina, and a few more minor characters. They played very different roles, faced struggles of their own, portrayed both strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, they endeared themselves to me. With some multi-POV books, I can get a little jaded and choose favorites. Not so here. I was excited for EVERY switch. Eager to see what was happening. Skovron’s writing style is like popcorn kernels going off, each pop a new and engaging form of entertainment.
But what I liked most was the deep level of political intrigue lurking in the background. It did not outshine the plot or the characters. It was woven so seamlessly that it never once took away from the story. Politics written for a story rather than a story written for politics. Story first, politics second. As it should be to highlight character arcs.
Speaking of, we see two distinct character arcs. Sebastian’s and Sonya’s. Sonya’s was related to her identity and perhaps more shocking. She was forced to question everything she held so firmly to.
“𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗮 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘁𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗥𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗳𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵. 𝗧𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗟𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘁𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀. 𝗕u𝘁 𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗮 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝘇𝗲𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗹𝗲𝗶𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝘀𝗵𝗲’𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗻 𝗼𝗳𝗳 𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗮’𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀, 𝗴𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝘆𝗲𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘆𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗵. 𝗗𝗶𝗱 𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗸 𝘀𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗰𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗟𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝗻𝗱?”—Jon Skovron
But Sebastian also faced a moral questioning. This started from the beginning as he began to reflect on the events of the past book. Guilt. Morality. Death. All of these things came together and forced him to question his beliefs.
“𝗪𝗮𝗿 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗮𝗸 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝘁𝗿𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗵, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗮𝗸 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗱. 𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗮 𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿-𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗰𝘆𝗰𝗹𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗮𝗹𝘀, 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗯𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻’𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗻𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝘃𝗲𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲.” —Jon Skovron
I enjoyed this one almost as much as the first one. It had a slightly different feel, because there wasn’t one common cause. In the last one, defeating the empire and driving them from Izmoroz was really the only focus. This book had a broader scope. It moved faster, and didn’t give quite as much deep detail. Events were skimmed a bit more. But that was necessary to tell the story, I think.
I think this is the kind of fantasy that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s got a some really cool magic systems, tons of fighting, plenty of political intrigue and world building. It really feels like a full package.
I wanted to give it 5 stars like the first book, but I’ve actually become a much harsher critic since my early days of reviewing books. While I don’t plan to demote my rating on the first book, I think I’m going t go with a solid 4.5 on this one. It was close to what I consider a 5 star. Very close.
MY RATING: 4.5/5⭐️
Thanks so much to Orbit for sending me a pre-publication copy in exchange for a review!
“𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁’𝘀 𝘀𝗼 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗳𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴? 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗯𝗼𝘄𝗹 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗸 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺, 𝗮 𝗵𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵, 𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗲𝗮𝗿? 𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝘁 f𝗲e𝗱 𝗮 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱, 𝗼𝗿 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮 𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗲, 𝗼𝗿 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗺?”—Jon Skovron
“𝗗𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝘆 𝗺𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀.”—Jon Skovron
“𝗦𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝗹𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲, 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗲𝗸𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝘀𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗹𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗮𝘁. 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗴𝗴𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝗲𝗱, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘂𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲, 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝗸𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲.”–Jon Skovron