Characters: Ian Troy narrates his painful journey of confronting his past to fight for his future. His family, friends, and enemies are well thought out and often relatable. I was saddened how all characters seem to be hopeless addicts to either magic or power. Although I don't like Troy very much, there are redeeming supporting mates to cheer on such as Jarryd. The connections and relationships are tangible and complex, making for a compelling story.
World Building: Rella and the surrounding world are from a simpler time before techonology and industry. The magic addiction and oppression, slavery, and obsession are difficult and heady themes throughout. Magic is written as something addictive and unpredictable with severe consequences - something not often considered in the fantasy genre so in love with the idea of magic.
Writing Style: Schneider weaves magic with words, like a song on the wind. No part of this story was boring or rushed, which is no easy task at 500 pages.
What I Enjoyed: The author has a gift for writing, and the characters are unique and dimensional. Ian's interactions with his companions felt authentic. It's not always clear who the "bad guys" are, which is often true in life. Whomever records history has the perspective of virtue.
Deal Benders: The sexual themes throughout this first book could definitely trigger some readers. I would rate it R for adult content, which seemed to be added simply as a show of violence. These themes felt cheap and egregious, as if the author was trying too hard to impress a lustful audience. I think there are better ways to create tension than to describe sex scenes in detail, as it usually detracts from the story. The violence, torture, and other themes made for a very bleak read.
Overall Rating: 3 stars - I enjoyed many parts of this book, so this was a tough one. I would have given another star for the excellent writing and characters if there was less extreme violence and a little bit of hope.
For Fans Of: Game of Thrones