This book had a few chapters at the beginning which almost put me off the book, but I persevered. The child Sheft chapters seemed to me to be unnecessary. His childhood trauma is repeated over and over in the book that I think Veronica Dale could remove the opening chapters. However, once the story gets over this hump, I found that the characters became more natural and slowly grew into their selves. There are a few hiccups along the way, such as the magic not quite being explained until we’re well through the book. Overall, it’s a promising start to a fantasy series.
We have a range of characters that we follow through the course of this book as well as a range of gods. The main characters we follow are; Sheft: the “hero”, Mariat: the “romance”, Tarn: the “father”, Wask: “evil”, and quite a few more that I’ll mention briefly on the way through this review.
I’ll focus first on Sheft. Sheft is an outcast from his village (At-Wysher) as he is a foreigner. His entire village (well not all of them) are xenophobes and will try anything to get rid of him. With this hatred, Sheft produced an inner turmoil that blinded him to who he was and what others thought about him. We read a lot of his thoughts and self-loathing. As I have not experienced such xenophobia myself, I’m a bit unsure if he would keep his deep-seated hatred as long as he did.
Moving on to Mariat. She’s Sheft’s love interest and Etane’s sister. Etane is Sheft’s friend since his childhood. As a character, she’s a healer and at a guess, attracted to things she can fix. I did find her character a bit dull at times because she was rather predictable. In the next book, more complex emotions or points of view could be seen from her to balance out Sheft.
We have the father, Tarn, who scolds Sheft and never believes in him. As the story moves on, we do find out why this is, but it would’ve been nice if he had a little bit of heart (I mean he fathered Sheft for 18 years, that’s got to count for something, right?).
Finally, we have the Wask. He’s the evil of the forest. He’s the thing that creeps at night and keeps everyone awake. He’s the thing that keeps religion in power in At-Wysher. We do see from his point of view a couple of times, and we learn a little of what’s in store for Sheft.
Right, well the main issue is Xenophobia. The fear of people from other countries (or just different in this case). We are jolted into this theme almost at the very start when we read about Sheft’s first visit to the village. We read about the stares, and the words passed around. The fear is real, and it boils the main religion of the community. We all feel different at some point in our lives, some more than others, and I believe that Dale has created this racism (or Xenophobia) to show this. This would especially be relevant to the USA at the moment. As you read Sheft’s perspective, you might see how your racism can have an effect on someone.
Another theme I’d like to explore quickly is love. It’s central here, in that Sheft experiences God’s love for the first time from some magician. Here we see that Sheft was never really loved by his parents and God’s love is all-encompassing no matter what you are or have done. We also see the unwavering love from Mariat. She loves Sheft for who he is, even when it will cost her her place in the village.
Finally, I’d like to explore secrets. Now this might be a spoiler theme, so skip over if you want. In this theme, we see the secrets of Sheft’s parents revealed near the end of the book. We understand the reasons why and how it all fits into place. Secrets fester in relationships and break down communication. We see this over and over again with Tarn not telling Sheft what was said at the village, not telling Sheft why he’s different, not telling Sheft who he is.
As I can’t rate half stars (and won’t start anytime soon), this book was rated relatively highly. The opening few chapters put me off, but once you get over that you get used to the writing and style. It would’ve been better had Dale explained the magic rules at the start, but I don’t mind. Overall, if you see this on sale, I would recommend having a read.
I received a copy of the book from the author for an honest review. I always try my best to balance the reviews and not favour any one person (though I may be a bit subjective when it comes to the genre). You can get a copy of the book at Amazon.