• The Good: Politics, religion, dragons, and magic!
  • The Bad: Simplistic high-fantasy plot
  • The Literary: Imaginative world complete with Maps, Persons of the Tale, Glossary, and Timeline

The House of Berethnet’s lineage protects the realm from the rise of the Nameless One, so Queen Sabran IX must marry and conceive a daughter. One of her new ladies-in-waiting, Ead Duryan is loyal to her Queen, but also to her hidden past. As an outsider at court, she has visibly renounced her heathen ways and worships the new gods, but she secretly belongs to a hidden society of mages who procure their magic from an orange tree. Across the sea, orphan Tane is training to be a dragonrider, but on the eve of her tests she is forced into an uneasy choice that could threaten her dreams.

In this modern high fantasy, a large cast of characters in far-flung nations must unite, in spite of their differences, to defeat an ancient enemy. With a unique magical system and plenty of fantasy creatures, including dragons, this world feels like a big place, rich with history and lore. The imaginative world building has a lot to offer. I really enjoy the legends on which each empire is built, where the truth has been twisted, and how the truth is revealed. And I love the mostly-female cast of characters who are queens, warriors, mages, scientists, pirates, dragon-riders, and general bad-asses, as well as the f/f romance.

Unfortunately, much of this book misses the mark. All the basic fantasy elements are there, but the story as a whole is lacking. Although I like all of the characters, I don’t love any of them, and I still don’t understand the basic motivations of a few. The dragons are good, but they could be developed far more than they are. The plot elements follow traditional archetypes for the genre, and overall it’s fairly predictable.

And a personal pet peeve: each of the protagonists is a descendant of someone important. Why can’t the chosen one be someone with no particular ancestors? It seems like this is something we just can’t get away from in fantasy. And it makes for a genre that feels less inclusive, burdened with the notion that some people are born better and more important by blood.

Recommended for connoisseurs of high fantasy looking for a modern feminist twist!