For a fantasy that covers a lot of elements, for a story that progresses through different interesting stages and plot lines, for an MC who feels real
In an empire divided into three rings, seventeen-year-old Talise is from the dangerous and crime-laden outer ring. Her only chance for escape is to become Master Shaper—an honored position in the palace court and military. Each year, the emperor chooses one student to receive the title. After ten years of training at an elite academy, Talise clearly has a gift for manipulating the elements of water, air, earth, and fire. But Aaden, a handsome student from the privileged inner ring, is poised to steal the title away from her. When they come before the emperor, he is impressed with the great skill both Talise and Aaden possess. He presents them with a set of trials, and she knows this is the chance she needs to prove herself. As long as Aaden doesn’t ruin everything. But secrets hide in every corner of the palace, masking a conflict far more dangerous than her previous home in the outer ring. Now, she must play along with the emperor’s lies and games, or else she will lose her life to an enemy she never expected.
I’m really glad I got the collection of the first four novels, because if I had to stop at the end of any of the different books I would have been mad. And that is always a good sign! I was delighted to learn there’s even another after this set, which I will be picking up soon. I’m not sure if that one is the end of the series or not, and I’m also not sure if I want it to be.
The magic of twisting elements is cleverly done, though I feel there were some obvious possibilities that were overlooked. It’s still fun to see all the ways the element manipulation is used and how it shapes – pun? – the culture of Kamdaria. Elemental magic is nothing totally new and crazy, but it was done well with some really gorgeous creations and descriptions (like the fire blossom tree!!!).
Some of the main plot points were predictable, but partly just because I’ve read so much of a similar genre. The journey and moments in between were fantastic, though. I really appreciated how the characters would point out moments that would usually be conveniently glossed over and leave the reader struggling to suspend disbelief. There were none of those here, as the characters themselves acknowledged when something was totally ridiculous. Running over broken glass barefoot? Yes, that will be a problem. No supernatural heroes here!
This was an enjoyable collection, but it didn’t blow me away. I think there’s potential for it to do so, though, and each section of the story got better in terms of writing style and plot complexity. We’ll see where River Gate goes next!
Thanks to the author and Booksirens for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!