I just have to say thank you to all of you that have been checking up on me during this past week. I was having one of the worst health weeks of my life. Constantly in pain, couldn’t sit up at a computer for longer than a minute or so before I felt like throwing up. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t eat. It was terrible.
And I appreciate you all for bearing with me as I got what I needed to start feeling healthy again. It’s going to be a long road until I’m 100% okay, but today has been better than it has been in a long time.
So thank you again, and thank you to Dave with The Write Reads for allowing me to be late on this post, and for always being so kind and checking up on all of us.
Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.
Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.
So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.
In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.
A fast-paced fantasy with magical creatures for those who enjoy the Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera series) by Jim Butcher, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.
Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, with several best-selling novels under her belt. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to The Write Reads and Capital Station Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
I’m telling you, fam. I feel like I’ve been reading nothing but fantasy lately, and even though fantasy is my all time favorite genre, I feel like I can get worn out when it’s so many back to back. I was worried that all of the fantasy I was reading was going to make me feel like this book was lackluster. Luckily, I was proven wrong and I rather enjoyed this novel.
I did think the premise of being able to become an “arcanist” by bonding with a mystical creature was interesting. Basically, the creature needs to agree to bond with you, and honestly it’s not like they bond with just anyone, you know? We start off with our main character Volke making a plan to join the Trials of Worth on his island of Ruma, where there are phoenixes that are born every few years or so. Young adults that are coming of age have the opportunity to enter the Trials, although it seems like only those that are handpicked by Tyms – the “teacher” like person that is a super duper jerk – are the ones that enter it and get to bond with the phoenixes. So when Volke enters the competition despite not “being allowed to”, people in the village get all butt hurt. You know how it is.
BUT! Even though the trials didn’t turn out the way that he wanted them to be, he and his best friend Illia – who is basically his sister since they grew up as orphans together under the tutelage of the grave master for 10 years – end up finding two mystical creatures and bonding with them. With that bond, both of them become arcanists and set off to Fortuna to begin their training.
In Volke’s case though, his situation is a little bit more rare than others because his eldrin – a knightmare – had an arcanist before. Only… his arcanist was murdered and that’s why he was able to bond with Volke when they met. Usually eldrins (the mystical creatures, in case that wasn’t totally clear) usually die protecting their arcanists or end up dying out of grief. When eldrins bond a second time, they aren’t as full or powerful than their first time around, and there’s a possibility that the eldrins could end up going mad. So while Volke and his Knightmare – Luthair – have bonded and seem to have some sort of connection based on their past, there is still a chance that Luthair and Volke could end up being damaged permanently.
I am so glad that Volke and Illia were together in this journey, and that they made sure that they both were able to bond with a creature rather than leave the other alone in Ruma. Having that kind of relationship for ten years and knowing someone so well for so long, and being able to go on an adventure with them, sounds absolutely amazing. I also feel like Illia was able to make sure that Volke did what he needed to do, and didn’t end up making rash decisions. They just worked well together, and I feel like if Illia wasn’t on this journey with him, things would have gone in a totally different direction.
I thought this was a pretty good first book to the series, and although I feel like there was so much of a plot twist already that was explained in the synopsis – but also felt like it could have been more explored in later books – but I think it can work out. There’s a bigger plot that is briefly mentioned in the beginning of the book, and kind of leads Volke and Illia to find their creatures in the first place, so I guess that is the one that is going to span the rest of the series. I guess I just felt like having Volke find out that his childhood hero is not what he thought he was could be a little intense for a first book? That could just be me honestly. It wasn’t a bad plot at all, but I guess for me it was too big of a plot? Maybe I’m just talking nonsense.
I’m curious to see what others think about this novel and the rest of the series. When I saw that there are four books, I was interested to see if there was going to be more. I feel like the fourth book doesn’t seem like it’s an actual ending? But we will see!