This is a deeply frustrating book. In theory, it has so much promise.
Maia is the only daughter of the King of Comoros. By law she can't inherit, but she is the apple of her father's eye--until he decides he must have a male heir.
It's no surprise that the Seven Kingdoms don't recognize female inheritance rights; women aren't allowed to learn real magic or even learn reading & engraving. And yes, you read that right. Not "reading & writing"; reading and engraving. Even though in context it's clear that "engraving" is done on parchment with pen and ink. It's the first of many troubling signs.
Maia is sent away from court at age nine, and formally banished at thirteen, after her mother's marriage to the king is dissolved. At eighteen, the king summons her again because he needs a very particular kind of help. He needs to defeat the magic rising against him, and that involves finding a magic tome hidden away centuries ago. Chancellor Walraven, dead now and disgraced long ago, had taught Maia in secret to read, "engrave," and practice the magic forbidden to women. She knows as much as anyone can about identifying the right volume and bringing it back--but at least in theory, she won't dare to use it. And after all, she still loves the kingdom of Comoros, no matter what she feels about her father.
He sends her off with a trained assassin and a contingent of soldiers for protection. Our first glimpse of "current day" Maia is after they've already survived several disasters and it's just her and the assassin left, on the cursed coast of Dahomey, separated from their ship. The story then proceeds in distinctly nonlinear fashion, with Maia proceeding from this point well into the story, while having exceptionally vivid dreams about her girlhood and young adulthood, revealing to the reader how she got here. It's a technique that often works very well. In this case, it doesn't work for me at all. It's just frustrating and annoying.
It's not helped by what I'll simply call Wheeler's odd use of language:
- The people of the Seven Kingdoms, or at least the people of Comoros, with a history very different from ours, and a religion that in no way resembles Christianity, celebrate Whitsunday.
- We're told that a "collier" is the boy who shovels out the stables. No.
- "Kystrel" apparently has a meaning in D&D, which is not the meaning Wheeler gives it in this book.
- Waystones that can, among other things, be magically tapped for light or water, are called "Leerings." Really? Why?
It all made for a frustrating reading experience, as i got repeatedly kicked out of the story by the strange or simply wrong use of language.
There is a good story in here.It's just hard to find and enjoy, underneath the abuse of the language and clumsy use of storytelling techniques.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.