What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
I was actually a bit surprised by how much this world sucked me in, it did take me a bit to finish as it got a little bogged down in certain areas, but I was fairly engaged the entire time while reading. I honestly cannot wait for the sequel though, I need to know more! I felt like I was given just a taste of the world and there’s so much more to it! Very, very excited for future books by A.K. Larkwood that is for sure!
The plot centers mostly around Csorwe a female Orc who was meant to be sacrificed as a bride to her world’s god The Unspoken One. However, when the time comes she is essentially rescued by a mysterious mage named Belthandros Sethennai whose goal is to reclaim the land/world he was exiled from. He has another younger person along with him most of the time as well named, Tal, who becomes another central secondary character. Their goal is to retrieve a mysterious, long lost relic called the Reliquary of Pentravasse. That is the basic gist of the story but there are actually many, many layers that slowly unfold throughout the course of reading. I enjoyed how much more there was to the plot and punches just rolled out one after the other, but at the same time I never felt lost or confused.
This story is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, which I personally haven’t been super familiar with so this was a really unique experience for me. I thought it blended aspects of both together very well too. There are spaceship style vehicles that travel through portals to get to different worlds, there’s magic, and there are different fantastical races. Just typing it now has me all excited and swooning, I thought it was a ton of fun! I really enjoyed the world building, it seems very complex and interesting but I really felt like I was waiting for more the entire time. Hopefully more of it will be shown and addressed in the sequel(s) because it really is a very intriguing world. I also appreciated that there wasn’t a ton of info-dumps strewn about either, you are given information but it’s never dumped unceremoniously in your lap all at once. One of the things I really, really wished had been shown/explained more was the Unspoken One because that’s the name of the book and we hardly saw it! It was one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing more of because that god specifically is very intriguing but there are some other god type forces that I hope to see more of as well in future books.
This is also very action packed and there are a few plot twists along the way, this helped keep my attention which I always think is a plus when reading long high fantasy books. I thought the pacing was moderate, when there was something going on, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. However, it did tend to get a little boring or bogged down in parts. Overall I didn’t see this as a huge issue but it did feel like it was dragging at those times.
I thought the characters were great overall and it felt like it was split pretty equally between being plot driven and character driven. However, I didn’t find any of them especially compelling on their own. I never felt like I got to really know their backgrounds or personalities and that really says something considering this book is 400+ pages long. Csorwe doesn’t really think, speak, or act for herself for a majority of the book and she came across as a little boring because of that. She would be silent and just carry out actions because Sethennei told her to, however, after a character is introduced Csorwe does begin to become more independent. This character is a powerful, female mage named Shuthmili who is essentially brainwashed by her world/society into thinking her magic is dangerous. I really did enjoy both of those characters especially the friendship they share which becomes more as the story continues. I would say these two grow the most over the course of the book.
Sethennei himself comes off as intelligent and honestly pretty callous at times, he’s a big motivator for the story though and I’m still unsure how to feel about him. Then we have Tal who also works for Sethennei and he’s actually pretty sarcastic and hilarious, sass to the max. I think if anyone showed the most emotion during the book it would be Tal’s character. There were times where I enjoyed Tal and Csorwe’s back and forth (like one of those friendships where the other is your nemesis but you still care about them?) but it did start to get old after a while. I understood it but it felt like they could have gotten over it to work together towards their common goals.
The romance was something I actually really enjoyed. There are quite a few queer characters but the main romance is F/F between Csorwe and Shuthmili. This is a slow burn friends to lovers romance and it was adorable. I liked how the romance didn’t overtake the story/plot but it played a bigger part in the course of the story towards the end especially with decisions these two ended up making. Overall well done in my opinion. Tal and Sethennei are also queer and I believe Tal is gay and Sethennei is either bi or pan, not 100% sure but like I said they’re both definitely queer characters.
What I Loved:
- Rich, complex, interesting world building.
- Genre blend of sci-fi and high fantasy.
- Well paced plot overall that is engaging with a good amount of action.
- Story had a lot of layers and twists (but didn’t feel confusing).
- No info dumping.
- Enjoyable characters.
- Queer characters.
- Amazing friends to lovers F/F romance.
What I Didn’t Love:
- I would have loved if certain aspects of the world building would have gotten a bit more fleshed out (fingers crossed that it will in the sequel).
- The pacing/story could get a little slow at times throughout the book.
- The characters didn’t feel like they had a ton of personality on their own, felt a little drab at times.
- Csorwe and Tal’s frenemy status got a little grating after a while.
Overall I would recommend checking this one out I think it’s a really fun world and I cannot wait to find out more about it in the sequel. If you’re looking for something with a rich, interesting world or want a unique reading experience with a book that is a blend of sci-fi and high fantasy, or want some queer characters with a F/F romance: check this book out.
Trigger Warnings: Death, Murder, Torture, Human and Animal Sacrifice, Child Death
**** Huge thank you to Tor Books for providing me with a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****