Inar is Master Builder for the Kingdom of Mishig-Tenh. Life is hard after the Kingdom lost the war against the League of Free Cities. Doubly so since his father betrayed the King and paid the ultimate price. And now the King’s terrifying chancellor and torturer in chief has arrived and instructed Inar to go and work for the League. And to spy for him. And any builder knows you don’t put yourself between a rock and a hard place.
Far away Anton, Blade Priest for Craithe, the God Mountain, is about to be caught up in a vicious internal war that will tear his religion apart. Chosen from infancy to conduct human sacrifice, he is secretly relieved that the practice has been abruptly stopped. But an ancient enemy has returned, an occult conspiracy is unfolding, and he will struggle to keep his hands clean in a world engulfed by bloodshed.
In a series of constantly surprising twists and turns that take the reader through a vividly imagined and original world full of familiar tensions and surprising perspectives on old tropes, Inar and Anton find that others in their story may have more influence on their lives, on the future of the League and on their whole world than they, or the reader imagined.
The blurb sold me on this book - and it didn't disappoint (well, there was one 'disappointment' but I'll come to that later).
The 'style' of the story, especially from the point of view of Inar the builder, put me in mind of a massively expansive fantasy video game (you know the kind of thing where you just wander around the screen going 'Woooah, how cool is that') and for me that was a massive plus point.
When Inar is sent to spy on The League, his people's conquerors, it made me wonder just what was going on as he seemed to be in a much better situation here - who are the 'good guys', who are the 'bad guys' am I going to be changing my mind every other page. Inar's part of the story was, I'll admit, my favourite - partly for the world building but also for his companion and comedy sidekick Lott, a great character who seems to lighten the mood at just the right time.
The other side of the story concerns the Blade Priest Craithe which, for the most part is more contained to the one area. This was a lot darker with sacrifice avian type Gods and the threat of an ancient Big Bad. When the book begins though the offering of human sacrifice is possibly coming to an end and the way this plays out between different factions made for an interesting read.
So, great characters, great plot, great world-building and a massive chonker of a book - 'what is there to disappoint?' you may well ask.
Well (and it's just a personal opinion) it could have really benefited from a map. That's it, a map, even though the world building was so good and so clear I knew more or less where I was for the majority of the time. What can I say, I like maps 😉
Two other things though - when Inar is first taken to The League they stay in a massive sprawling castle but the people who live there can find there way around as the corridors are all marked as are the individual doors - THEY BASICALLY HAVE A STREET GUIDE FOR THE CASTLE!! How cool is that idea? It may have been done before but I don't recall it.
Also, Evil Elves!!
So, when you put it all into context I guess the lack of a map is only a small thing really
4.5/5* Highly Recommend (and the only reason it hasn't got 5* is that I feel the story is only going to get better in later volumes)