March 13, 2014 by mmileti
I was quite surprised by this new fantasy debut. I read a few reviews before diving into this book, and they all purported that this novel had a stale plot line, and was filled with needless violence. I therefore went in to this book with lowered expectations, and my best hope was for a book that I would be able to get to the end of without too much difficulty. I can honestly say that this book was a very pleasantly surprise. I can only assume that the reviews I read were from people that had only read the first few chapters, or were thrown off when they found a book that had been classified as YA that didn’t contain a female heroine and a sappy romance.
I would be hesitant to classify this novel as YA. The two POV characters are teenage boys on the brink of manhood, but the book also contains many adult themes, and a lot of the plot is filled with intricate political intrigue that is centered on the world’s clashing religious factions. The novel also contains a good amount of graphic violence, as the two main characters are set against themselves in the arena with the intention of causing each other serious physical harm, or, in one case, even death.
The story focuses on the rivalry between Paladin Del Darkdragón, and Fox the Runt. They are both young men, and warriors in training. They live in a world where their martial art is tied to their religion, and the way to praise their god of choice is to practice a certain fighting style. Paladin struggles because he is a half-breed, and therefore the descendant of followers of all the different gods and their unique fighting styles. His blended martial arts have gotten him kicked out of all the temples in the city, yet he still insists on worshipping all of the gods rather than devoting himself to just one. After Paladin’s honor is questioned by Fox the Runt, he must fight in a tournament to prove his worth. Unfortunately, even if he does win, he will be ridiculed as a heretic and pagan for embracing all the gods. Paladin finds himself having to choose between honor and the safety of his own family, while Fox the Runt struggles with an upbringing that has brought him nothing but hatred of his own countrymen and Paladin’s mixed ancestry in particular.
The plot of this novel was relatively fast paced, despite a few sections that were a bit slower due to their focus on political and religious intrigue. Even during the slower sections, I found the book engaging, and the places where the plot picked up were very intriguing. The plot is complex, and is devoted to the importance of two young men on opposing sides of an impending religious feud. The world the book takes place in is extremely intricate and fascinating, even though it does take a while to get into the book’s rhythm and understand the complexity of the religious status quo. I would recommend this book to those that are interested in the martial arts, enjoy epic fantasy, and also those that enjoy a good dose of intrigue with their speculative fiction. The book’s plot is left open-ended, and I will be looking forward to reading any sequels that are to come.
Overall, I enjoyed this debut even though it is not a book that may appeal to the masses of speculative fiction fans. I would rate this book a 7.5/10.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.