Following good stories wherever they lead
An outcast, grieving woman finds herself balancing the weight of kingdoms — hated by her relatives, coveted by the gods, and in danger from all.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 mugs
If you’re in the mood for: Gods and treachery, with scenes of heartbreak, poetry, and wonder brought to life in a unique voice.
Yeine Darr is completely out of her depth.
She came to the capital of Sky to find her mother’s killer, and revenge. Instead, she has been named an heir to the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms — and instantly becomes a target of every political machination in the city.
Coming from a backwater territory in the North, with the disgrace of her mother’s past upon her, Yeine knows that she is considered a barbarian at best. She is the leader of her people’s tribe, but she has no interest in grander politics. Her matriarchal society is out of step with the larger realms, and she herself has no talent for court intrigues.
Yeine cannot understand why her grandfather would name her heir — unless he means for her to die in the resulting competition for the throne.
Which is looking more likely, now that Yeine has caught the attention of the gods.
Most troubling is the Nightlord, whose power of chaos and nightmare begins at sunset. All of the traitor gods have been imprisoned in human flesh as punishment, and Yeine quickly sees that Nahadoth has been driven mad by his confinement. This might explain his fascination with her…except that Sieh, the trickster child-god, has also taken a shine to Yeine.
Being an object of interest to the divine ones is akin to being investigated by sharks — but it does afford certain protections.
If Yeine can discover why she is the focal point of all these attentions, she stands a chance of seeing the larger web. But it means learning more about her mother’s past — and who she truly was — while trying to keep the knives from her own throat.
In the city of Sky, lies are more abundant than time, and Yeine will be forced to make choices that have repercussions throughout all of the kingdoms, and into the realm of the gods themselves.
This book is a mastery of worldbuilding and voice that simply must be experienced. I encountered it blind — without any preconceptions or advance knowledge — and I think that adds to its richness. So I’ll just run through a quick “what I loved about it” summary here.
First, the narration. Yeine’s voice is a complex joy, bruised and wry, pragmatic and questioning and deeply poetic. She tells stories within stories, tracking back to weave further complications into scenes simple at first glance, drawing you into her confusion and desperation. A determined woman caught in a mesh of others’ desires and vendettas, Yeine’s combination of creativity, cleverness, and force of will help her to forge her own path…even as she knows that some things are beyond her reach.
Knowing the truth does not negate the heart, however, and Yeine struggles against her own deepest impulses, particularly when it comes to the gods.
The gods are a fresh intrigue in themselves — alien and yet deeply familiar, fragmented to the point of schizophrenia…but utterly complete as a whole. My favorite was Sieh, the god of tricks and childhood, at once innocent and sly, young and ancient. Nahadoth is his own troubling disaster — and believably chilling in his many incarnations. This is menace and seduction done well.
Pace-wise, the story develops in a satisfying rhythm, a slow build that reflects back on itself and then surges forward even further — like a rising tide, or a symphony reaching its peak. There is a richness of signs and symbols that I think would reward a re-reading, especially as this is the first in a trilogy. (Incidentally, it’s being released in the trilogy format as well).
Finally, the setting is strange and wonderful — a capital palace in the sky, suspended by a nothingness of a pillar and crawling with corridors and magics. Windows and spires create the impression of light and luxury, which belies the corruption, unrest, and conspiracies choking its halls. Yeine’s newcomer status allows us to see things through a foreigner’s eyes, making things freshly compelling and threatening in their otherness.
Simply put, this fantasy novel is not to be missed.
Come up to Sky with Yeine as your guide, and meet the gods yourself.