Fire seethes through the veins of every Morsam, demanding domination and destruction. Combat is a hobby. Slaughtering the inferior blood-beings is entertainment. Life is a repetitious cycle in the prison fashioned by the gods. But mix-race abomination Vadrigyn os Harlo suspects the key to freedom lies with safeguarding the blood-beings; until her blood-born mother uses foreign magic to turn the Morsam against Vadrigyn. Betrayed, bound, and broken, Vadrigyn struggles against the dying of her essential fire. Yet the ebbing flames unleash the dormant magic of her mixed heritage…
The magic to destroy free will.
Seized by the gods and dumped in the desert nation of Larcout to stop history from repeating, Vadrigyn discovers her mother’s legacy of treason and slaughter still festers. To survive the intrigues of the royal court, the roiling undercurrents of civil war, and the gods themselves, Vadrigyn must unravel the conspiracy behind her mother’s banishment. But manipulating free will unleashes a torrent of consequences.
If she fails the gods, she will return to the Morsam prison, stripped of all magic and all hope.
3.5 stars. Vadrigyn Le Sri is of the Morsam -- the halfbreed children of the goddess of fire. Fire and venom run through her veins, screaming for death, but Vadrigyn is not some monster without reason. She is certain that the only way to escape her prison world where kill or be killed is the only motto is to prove to the male gods that she is more than the fire in her blood. They give her the chance to prove herself by plucking her out of Agenwold and tossing her into the Jewelled Nation of Larcout. Here, battles are fought with magic and the mind, which Vadrigyn must learn to master if she is to unravel the mystery of her mother's decades old crime and the current politics of which she is the key to everyone's undoing.
I immediately fell for Vadrigyn upon meeting her. She is a gruff warrior woman raised to take nothing for granted. Thrown into the fancy world of high court, she stands out like a sore thumb, or in her case, the poisonous Dorgof parasites that extend from her palms. Everything about her is fierce and animalistic, from her wild hair to her fanged teeth and appetite for munching on precious stones, but Krantz balances this with Vadrigyn's intelligence and the ferocity of her desire for change. She is out of place in both the world she is torn from and the world she is dropped into, but she makes no apologies for any of the myriad of things that make her different, including her parentage, even when her mother's crimes and Vadrigyn's apparent weaknesses are constantly thrown in her face.
Her instruction and mentorship in her new world is undertaken by her cousins, who feel they must band together to protect each other from the Le Sri shame brought down by Vadrigyin's mother, and Le Zyrn, a high ranking man in the grand political scheme. Many others seek to use her for or against the throne, and it is Vadrigyn's job to learn how to decipher this puzzle, and prove herself to the gods.
This is where the book started to teeter on the edge of boredom for me as Vadrigyn meets a plethora of potential friends and foes, many of whom are somewhat difficult to tell apart, and few of whom endeared themselves to me. While Vadrigyn remained an interesting character throughout, she did not necessarily change or grow in a way that the reader is allowed to see. Despite the story being told from her point of view, there is very little emotional depth in her character, though it could be argued that emotional depth is simply not her way. Vadrigyn is refreshingly open and calls everything as she sees it and we are privy to that through her thoughts, even when she does manage to hold her tongue in front of the blood-beings she must protect and protect herself from. In the middle of the book, Vadrigyn unwittingly begins to play the role of Nancy Drew, pointing out what ought to have been obvious to everyone else, but for the convenient fact that mind altering abilities are at play. The entire middle section could use some tightening up in order to address the lull that occurs while everyone takes the time to catch up to Vadrigyn's revelations.
Both the magic and political system prove to be creative strong point in Krantz's story, once the pieces start to fit together, and the overall prose is well written, save for a penchant for splitting off sentences from a paragraph for the sake of emphasis. Topped with an unusual heroine, this is a solid entry in the fantasy genre.
I’m going to say it right up front: I wasn’t initially sure I was going to enjoy Larcout. The opening chapters dump you right in the middle of things, gives you a plethora of new terms and alliances and relationships to learn and precious little context for them all, and then things change suddenly and the protagonist Vadrigyn is thrown into a new society with even more stuff to learn, and yes, it’s very chaotic and unclear and at times I seriously felt like Larcout was actually book 2 of a series and the reason I was so lost in the beginning was because I missed some essential backstory from a previous novel.
Bear with things. The book definitely improves.
Vadrigyn is half-breed being of fire, proudest of her Morsam heritage but undeniably related to the Larcoutian woman who raped Vadrigyn’s father in order to produce her. The violent life in Agenwold is what she knows, owning blood-beings as chattel, ruling over weaker things. Until she’s suddenly thrust into life in the Jewelled Nation, among blood-beings like her mother, forced to confront the other side of her heritage and to uncover the truth behind the mystery that is and was her mother. Larcout is something of a fantasy murder mystery in that regard, and it’s certainly a well put together one, full of intrigue and detail and some fascinating and frustrating cultural elements that Vadrigyn must wade through to solve the puzzle.
Krantz certainly put a lot of detail into the world in Larcout. The gods of the world have their particular nations, so that Larcout is both a place and a divine being. There are also elemental associations, with Jos, for instance, being of water, and Larcout seemingly being of earth (it’s never stated explicitly, but when you’ve got people who can telekinetically move rocks and who have precious stones sprouting from their foreheads and who turn to sand when they die, I think it’s safe to assume). The culture that Vadrigyn encounters when she finds herself in the land her mother came from is stratified and rigid, with gender inequality and class issues and full of tricky politics and alliances that need to be maneuvered around. Some things definitely felt more developed than others, but it’s clear that Krantz put the effort in and didn’t just make a fantasy analogue for a real-world culture and then call it a day. I find myself appreciating that more and more in the books I read.
If there’s any flaw I found with Larcout, it’s in the descriptions, or rather the lack thereof. I never felt like I had a really clear mental picture of things. I could tell you a little bit about what Dhaval looks like, or Vadrigyn, or a Grethmondor, or where Vadrigyn sleeps, but for the most part, I’ve honestly got no clue. Some details were mentioned, but for me it seems they didn’t really coalesce into a clear thing for me. However, personality-wise, I feel pretty familiar with a number of characters, because Krantz writes plenty of dialogue and all the characters have fairly distinct personalities, even if you don’t get to see them that often. I can tell you a few personality traits of just about everyone who got a name in the book.
A few other reviewers commented on the book’s lack of balance, and I feel I have to agree. The narrative vs dialogue issue is an example of it, and the one that stood out the most to me while reading it, but in retrospect, I think that might be in part because of the writing being a bit uneven. When it’s on, it’s on. It’s crisp and witty and you have a good understanding of what’s happening, even if you can’t always picture the finer details. And then other parts feel rushed or glossed over or inconsistent, and that might be a considerable part of what left me feeling unable to establish a good mental picture.
Despite that, though, Larcout was undeniably creative, and enjoyable to read even when I felt a bit lost, and once I let myself sink into the story I found myself compelled to keep pushing on, wanting to know more of the mystery that Vadrigyn was working to uncover. The threads of intrigue were strong, there were twists and turns to keep it all interesting, and it was endlessly entertaining to see Vadrigyn’s personality be at odds with the culture of the people around her. This is a book I think could be utterly brilliant if it was smoothed out and polished a bit more, but as it stands, it’s still a book worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something a little bit different and have the patience to push past the first few chaotic chapters.
This book is deep and vibrant in its worldbuilding, rich in fleshed out characters (like, seriously a lot of characters. I had to make a flowchart just to keep track of them all), and to top it off, has one of the best mysteries I’ve run across, a multilayered affair that grows delightfully as the story progresses. All around a top-notch book.
I do have to wonder about the lack of conversation that has occurred around this story, and at the end, the only reasons I can think for it are 1) the complexity of the story might turn off more casual readers, because this is a book that takes being truly invested in to enjoy, and 2) the price the author is asking is rather high for the self-published genre (even if in the end, I’d argue it’s totally worth every penny).
If you can get over those two hurdles, this is a real treat. A world of six suns, five warring gods, a vast array of unique races all with different magical powers, and a political intrigue plot that blows anything conventional out of the water. If nothing else, this book is a powerful argument about why magic is so uniquely suited to stories of politics. Because when you have a world with kings who can change memories, or courtesans that can inflame passions with a touch, then everyone’s motives become suspect. Trying to piece together what characters could be believed and which could not while reading through this made the mystery so much more vibrant. My head hurt just trying to understand the scope of it all at the end.
Also, the MC is probably the most tsundere character I’ve ever encountered. An absolutely glorious read.
Vadrigyn is a demi-god. Kind of. I’m not really clear on that, but I am clear on one thing: she can kick your butt.
Being raised by a brutal (inhuman Morsam) father and an insane (human witch from the Jeweled Nation) mother in a harsh environment has made her stronger than the usual human. It helps that fire courses through her veins instead of blood, she’s physically stronger, and venomous parasites inhabit her body and instantly kill anyone who touches her.
But what differentiates Vadrigyn from the other Morsam is that she tries to perform the will of the gods and avoids killing indiscriminately–in an attempt to secure her freedom from the Morsam lifestyle. As a result the gods have decided to test her in the Jeweled Nation where she will undergo her Trial of Identity, and in the process learn about her magic and challenge her innate need for death and destruction.
Vadrigyn is our PoV character and is picked up from her hazardous life with the Morsam to be dropped into political intrigue among the Jeweled Nation (which turns out to be as dangerous). She learns that her mother Ephinnia was a daughter of nobles and believed to be the cause of a fire that destroyed thousands of homes and lives; and as a result Ephinnia was banished from the city to perish in the desert. Everyone seems pretty sure that Vadrigyn will do something equally terrible, especially considering the recently acquired ability she inherited from her mother: she can bend minds to her will. It is her Trial of Identity to learn to control her ability and to do it in a way that appeases the gods.
Along for the ride is a varied and sometimes confusing cast of characters. There are her cousins Grit and Sana who’ve spent their youth being maligned by the rest of the nobles and convinces Vadrigyn that they must watch each others’ backs. There’s her mentor Zyrn, who insists she needs to learn people’s needs and not simply their behavior if she ever hopes to be able to be able to bend minds. There’s a king, a queen, a couple of princes, and a young man named Roshan who doesn’t seem deterred by her fangs. Compared to the world Vadrigyn grew up in, this place is foreign and confusing: women are treated like weak creatures, servants live in the walls of noble houses, when they die the people turn to sand. She despairs she will ever be able to understand them. For us, though, Vadrigyn can sometimes be hard to read. Krantz doesn’t go deep into her PoV’s emotions, although her motivations are strong enough to compel the story forward. Still, Vadrigyn’s responses and behavior was consistent and believable across the entire book, which is no small feat considering the complexity of her background.
The prose is super tight and easy to read; there is a big learning curve for the first couple of chapters, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. There are a few blips in the flow where Krantz’s prose gets too terse and I had a hard time following character movement, but on the whole that’s a small issue compared to the consistent pacing, engaging plot, and exciting action scenes. There were a few points in the middle of the novel where it got bogged down by political chatter. I wasn’t completely clear on some of the minor characters, so I was confused about the convoluted explanation of their motivations and how it affects the story as a whole, and as a result I got a lost in how Vadrigyn discovers the mystery of her mother’s crime 20+ years ago. Ultimately these things didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. This book is worth the time for its creativity alone.
Recommended Age: 14+ Language: Minor instances Violence: Vadrigyn is inherently violent, so, yeah, but it isn’t excessive Sex: Referenced and a brief scene
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Vadrigyn is an unusual, but great heroine. She's without guile and used to using her strength and the poisonous parasites that live in her body to survive. But then she is taken from the kill or be killed world she grew up in and lands in a world where intrigue and deceit are the weapons of choice. She has to learn how to find her place in this world to keep alive.
I love the world building in this book. The different Gods and races are really interesting and intriguing. This book focuses most on the Larcoutians and the Morsam, but the glimpses that were given of the other races were really cool as well. I hope there will be more of them in the next book.
The magic that is used by the Larcoutians and how their society deals with that magic is well worked out and believable. Their society is a scary and brutal one beneath the civilized surface in my opinion. I enjoyed how you slowly find out more and more about Larcout.
The story is complex and the secrets Vadrigyn is trying to uncover are dangerous. I was hooked from the start and kept trying to figure out what was going on and who was to trust. There were some really likeable characters, and some that I loathed. At times I was really nervous about the safety of my favorite characters.
The names that are used aren't common names and took some getting used to, but they were all different enough that I didn't have to track back to figure out who's who, like sometimes happens when an author uses names that sound too much alike.
All in all this is a really great Fantasy read, filled with conspiracies and cool action. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, to see what happens next for Vadrigyn.
Larcout has an excellent heroine, Vadrigyn, who is strong yet unusual in this fantasy novel. The storyline is complex and keeps you wanting to find out more about the characters and their world. The character and race names were unique and not at all common in the fantasy genre. The novel is filled with conspiracies, vast amounts of action, and is an incredible fantasy novel. I am looking forward to the next book to find out what happens with Vadrigyn, and hope it will be coming out soon
Enjoyed my too short visit in this new world! Am looking forward to the next opportunity to cover its new spaces. Once I caught on to the characters [list in back of who can do what] along with the map, I was spell-bound. What will Vadrigan be up to next? Please, don't make us wait too long.