In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, discovers a sentient book in an ancient tomb. Vella was once a young sorcerer-maker, until she was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been gathering information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.
Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests since a terrible war depleted all but a little magic, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows from her ability to sense the stain it leaves behind that she has a talent for it, and that there are people willing to teach her how to use it, should she ever need to risks the Angels’ wrath.
Further away, a people called the Travelers live their entire lives on the move, trading goods from one world to another. They know that each world has its own store of magic, reducing or increasing a sorcerer’s abilities, so that if one entered a weak world they may be unable to leave it again. Each family maintains a safe trading route passed down through countless generations and modified whenever local strife makes visiting dangerous. But this is not the only knowledge the Travelers store within their stories and songs, collected over millennia spent roaming the universe. They know a great change is due, and that change brings both loss and opportunity.
Man. This book.
Man. These books.
This is not a book. This is two disparate stories put together under one cover and called a a single book. The two tales never meet (I must be naive to expect them to merge like they would in a normal book), and worst still, don’t even feel like they belong in the same book. Okay, I take it back, they are technically connected. He stole a book of magic and she “stole” magic from the gods – but that is quite literally as deep as it goes and not enough for me to justify them both being under the same cover. And that bit about the Travelers? So barely even mentioned in this book that I don’t even know why they’re mentioned in the summary at all.
Okay, let’s took at the two very different books.
The first one is the Tyen. The first thing I thought of when he found the book Vella was Harry Potter.
Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain – Arthur Weasley, Chamber of Secrets
Vella isn’t actually evil and Trudi does a decent job of giving her personality, as much as one give a book a personality. Tyen is likable enough and I liked the set up. The problem was, once the action got going, it got completely cut off, and the story of Rielle started up. So not only was the action interrupted, it was broken up by a story that had almost no action of its own. In other words, whatever tension Trudi managed to build up was completely and utterly squandered. The set up for the sequel is very open but I somehow can’t get excited for it because by having his story so chopped up, his characterization still did ultimately suffer because we spent so much time away from him. And now that the threat of this first book is presumably gone, it’ll be kind of starting over from scratch.
Speaking of starting over from scratch, so too will Rielle by the end of her story. Her story feels like the much more conventional of the pair. She is a girl who is growing in a theocracy whose religion doesn’t let civilians use magic (what the priests do it with it isn’t explained very well). Ultimately though, the magic feels kind of tacked on. The better part of her story really focuses around the fact that she is the daughter of a wealthy family, but a family who is not respected because of their occupation. Realizing that she’ll never marry into the upper most classes the way her mom wishes her to (or if she does, it’ll probably be to someone odious in one way or another) and so impulsively decides to go live with an artist who one escorted her home. Towards the end of the book the magic comes into play in a larger form. But meh. The ending doesn’t even really make sense and then she’s just kind of left on her own to start over and I’m like huh?
Overall I kept asking myself what is the point of this book? I found no unifying theme, and the slow-paced nature of Rielle’s story ultimately dragged down Tyen’s story because it robbed it of momentum almost every time the stories swapped. The individual tales were written well enough, and I think had they been properly separated, they could have been fleshed out to something rather good. As it stands though, it just feels confused.
I’m sure that the author has some kind of grand plan for future books, but asking the reader to continue on on pure faith that this will eventually add up to something is a huge ask and I don’t think the author’s earned that.
Verdict: Skip It