I do not have time to read, but the books just keep getting stuck to my face. UF, HF, YA, fluffy romance, whatever. I love it all.
But I might judge you if you hand out five stars all willy nilly.
So, out of my Goodreads friends who have read this book, the percentage who have loved it?
One Hundred Percent.
Which makes me feel like this:
The odd man out.
But I'm not gonna lie: me and this book had a rough go. I don't even know if it's the book's fault. It could just be me, and the fact that I'm pretty sure all the books I've considered high fantasy have actually been more like romances with magic. I can't deny my need for romance and lurve!
So anyway, I definitely struggled in the first twenty percent, even though the writing flowed well and it sparked my imagination. I was just continuously tempted to put it down and read something else, especially in the beginning when all the setup was happening and names were being thrown out left and right. It was like being in class with Charlie Brown.
I understand that fantasy novels require quite a bit of setup, and maybe its standard fare for the first book to be entirely spent doing that, but it just never drew me in. Yet the five stars from my friends continued to trickle in, and I was feeling like such a loser for not "getting" how awesome this book is supposed to be, that I broke down and switched to audio. Audio is my friend and has helped me get through many a book I would have otherwise dnf'd, and this was no exception. The narrator was pretty good. Easy to listen to with a slight European accent of some sort, and he helped re-peak my interest enough that I wanted to finish.
After I made the switch I was able to progress and finish the story, but it still never really sucked me in. I'm trying to put my finger on why exactly I didn't fall in love with this story, because it really did have a lot of stuff that I typically enjoy: training sequences, dangerous missions, girls who can shoot bows and blow stuff up-- I should have liked this more than I did.
In this book, the Emperor has been murdered. He has three children who are scattered in various corners of the kingdom, and they are now in danger because whoever killed the Emperor is coming for them. The story mostly focuses on the two sons, who were sent away as children to be trained in two very different ways. Kaden, the heir to the throne, has been living at a monastery for the last eight years, training to be a monk.
His brother, Valyn, was sent to be trained to be a Kettrel, which is basically an elite assassin group that flies around on huge eagles and protects the Empire.
Their sister Adare has been left in the capital, and even though she is the eldest and knows more about leading the empire than either of her brothers, she cannot inherit the throne or rule because she is a woman. She has her own problems trying to bring her father's murderer to justice, but she gets relatively little screen time in this book. There was a setup that makes me think she will be a bigger player later on, though.
So, the first 75% of the book focuses mainly on what life is like for the two brothers and the training that they went through. There is a murder mystery for Valyn, and the evidence is mounting that someone is actively trying to kill him, and Kaden has a fierce new mentor who puts him through hell on a daily basis to teach him to empty his mind.
I didn't mind any of that stuff. In action movies, my favorite part is usually the "training montage" sequence. But for whatever reason, when I should have been really invested in the story, I always felt like this:
Was it the lack of emotions? Was it the lack of well-developed relationships? Was it that they spent way too much time training and got to the main event way too late in the story? Was it that the book included regular swear words like "fuck" but also had the characters saying "kent-kissing" like it was a major f-bomb? (seriously, that drove me nuts).
I don't know, but even when major things finally started to happen, I still found myself observing rather than feeling anything. Even when characters started dying and stuff started going to hell at the monastery, I was completely unmoved.
To be fair, this book is well-written. Great use of language and I felt like the author did a beautiful job of weaving in philosophical lessons for Kaden through his monk training. So, I think that this book is absolutely going to be awesome for some people-- especially if you already know that you like high fantasy.
But for me, I didn't connect with the characters, I was bored with the plot, and I feel overwhelmingly neutral on the whole thing.