Recommended: for other people
For a world of many characters, for a book that’s more about the journey than the destination, for a lot of backstory and build up and a very sudden resolution
Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within.
Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.
Alright, here’s my biggest gripe: the ending was terrible. It was extraordinarily disappointing and underwhelming, and it annoyed me that I waited all this time to see it and it was spectacularly crap. Both endings, I’ll say, since there’s kind of two key plot points that get wrapped up. This is why I say this book is about the journey, and definitely not the destination. There’s no strong resolution here, and ultimately, you could probably read the second book in the series without reading this one and be well off.
For me this was a mostly ok read because it wasn’t AWFUL, but it was kind of boring with very little payoff for all the time I put in. Considering I read a 500+ page fantasy book in The City of Brass this month in three days, and this one at around 450 pages took me about a month speaks volumes. It just didn’t suck me in. While I was reading it, I meandered my way through the story slowly, plodding along with the characters. But in between reading sessions, I never particularly felt called to go back to it. It was more of a desire to finish it than a desire to see it finished, if you get what I mean.
And WOW, were there a lot of characters. I can’t even name how many character perspectives we followed, because there were probably 9 or 10. Remarkably, I didn’t care about any of them. I think this is due to the fact that with so many, none got a solid stream of attention to develop and catch my empathy. The story also spans many years, with gaps of decades or years at a time, so I would come back to a very different person than I had originally met. I essentially had to start over with them.
▼ View spoilers – an annoying character thing for me…
This is why when some of the characters died, I didn’t care at all beyond some mild annoyance that now I had to meet a new character and learn about them instead.
I saw some other reviews point out other issues, such as the society where men are just things to have sex with and be concubines, essentially. Or a scene where a young girl is consoled about the death of her friend by another adult woman giving her an orgasm with a sex toy. What the fuck? These are valid points, and yet I was in such a haze reading through this that they barely registered at the time because I was just plodding through the pages.
Now I realize this sounds like a lot of complaints, and for me, this book just didn’t really work. However, I do think this is a read that will work for other people. For people who love character studies, and slower paced reads with a lot of exploration of the world and mind, this will probably be a hit. If you like long-spanning plot with a lot of reflective qualities, and don’t mind slower action, then this will probably do you good.
▼ View spoilers in a short rant about the ending(s) and why I hated them…
Seriously, the ancient, cosmically-powerful sorceress is killed by some regular mortal snapping her neck?? How incredibly fucking boring is that?? I waited 400 pages to get to this point and I felt slightly betrayed and a whole lot confused. Why did we even bother with Sessadon if she didn’t matter enough to even cause some havoc before she went on out? As for the final ending where Tamura declares that Scorpica is still invading despite the end of the drought, I just don’t care. War is a boring plot, and I never liked any of the characters involved, so there’s no emotional fear of like “oh no they’ll be invaded!” so… nothing about this worked. I almost stopped reading this book at about 86%, just before the final Rites of the Sun, and I kind of wish I had because then I could have imagined a better ending and left it at that.
Thank you to NetGalley and the author for a free advanced copy of this book. This is my honest review.