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584 pages, Kindle Edition
First published July 1, 2014
Even if staying here is a mistake, even if, that is, I myself block my own way, please, don’t forget that I strived so hard to go down paths, where others had cast shadows on, too. What is truly unfair is having something other than your own self stand in your way. However, when the decisions and the faults are yours, you are also responsible for setting them right. Here, now, I shall accept whatever fate.
Did I confuse you? My guardian, I’m telling you all this, because I don’t think I will eventually experience a lot of things—and I don’t even know if I want to doubt, about whether I’ll ultimately live those things or not. Whatever is meant to happen, will happen for a reason...
Since we live for a reason; and it is never one single goal. It’s the line between the milestones, a mechanism leading each of us in accomplishing whatever we were made to accomplish: being whole.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Because the things leading each one of us to completion are different. First, one has to find those things, all of them ... and then make them come true. The enslaved part of my nature needs complete care—perhaps even for centuries. Perhaps then I shall be ready to feel whole. I want to believe it’s not too late.
Rhyathea, I’m tired. Sometimes I say, if I had the chance to wish for something unrealistic, I’d wish to be a bird. A new kind of bird that could fly even outside the world’s air, and always away from the earth.
I got carried away. And these days, ‘normally’, I would have been drawing closer than ever to the end of some of the battles which, if I ever won them, it was only by shedding my blood. ‘Must’ that became ‘want’? No. The opposite. I chose many of my paths, along with their exacting turns, routes which I was once even looking forward to. ‘Something that is real,’ I used to say... How did this volition shrink down to an imperative?
Because, as you’ve seen, I fly too much. And I’m not allowed to, I was ‘simply’ born in the air without ever having actually landed. This means that, when I will have to meet the earth for good one day after all this flying, the landing shall be rough. Therefore, what? Dreams should remain stars? And the feet on the ground? Either way, I shall keep trying to tame the nature and the thirst of this heart of mine. I want to love life, not to end up cursing it.
I’m not a poet, unlike you. Whatever I write is pointless, at the very least. For me, though, these are the truest things I’ve ever told you. Did I manage to ride the wind? Well, it’s still too early to know. Because I feel that now is the beginning. And there are much more to come. But thanks to Eon, to you, to my brothers, the beginning in this place here is ... ideal!
I am incapable too, of bearing to lose what I wholeheartedly love. What did I use to tell you?
"That's how it is with what you love. You must be prepared to endure the pain when you lose it.
Because, you always lose it."
...and drink the blood of my freedom
as if it were sacred water...
This wasn't an easy book to read, but I don't mean that in a bad way! This is not a book to be dipped in and out of, or skim read with half your mind on something else. It's an epic and philosophical high fantasy that requires your full attention - lapse in focus and you risk falling overboard and losing yourself in the sea of characters, foreign geography and several points of view. I definitely most enjoyed reading this when I had the time to consume several chapters at once, to immerse myself in the world-building and rich prose. Unfortunately that was a rare occurrence as I read it during some of my busiest months this year, and every time I returned to the book, I was constantly having to refer to the glossary, search previous mentions, flick back to remind myself of the plot and refamiliarise myself with Cosmos.
The detail in Maud's world-building is truly impressive. There are maps, genealogies, myths and religion...I feel like she could probably write an entire history book based on her imagined setting. I do think the maps might have been better situated at the front of the book, rather than at the end, so the reader'll know they have this aid before they begin. A cast of characters would've also been helpful (à la The Priory of the Orange Tree), as well as their associated epithets/nicknames.
The writing was beautiful, and Maud uses very lovely and often quite original metaphors. She has a knack for creating a setting; some scenes were so detailed, they felt like they could've been standalone vignettes! My favourite parts were the patches of poetry sprinkled throughout this book: haunting, moving and evocative.
Unfold your laughter, so that fear runs away and be afraid of nothing;I just love that. (And I'm told that was one of Maud's favourite parts to write!)
the sacred gaiety of your face
is my lantern, a road to you.
I tasted fire and drank earth,
and Time is my witness
that stateless did I tread, counting
the seas of solitude.
I see the Lyco [Sun] in your gaze.
Let me meet it
and if in its light I lose my sight,
the last image shall be the worthiest.
Honestly, how beautiful is that? Style-wise, there was a somewhat inordinate amount of ellipses flooding the pages, but I got used to them eventually and they didn't bother me much.
The tight-knit bond between Drynoe and her friends was another thing I really loved reading. Their love, loyalty and banter with eachother was so wholesome and heartwarming, and many a joke made me chuckle. Adeimos was especially lovable, and Drynoe grew on me, especially after they reach Helicasteros. We gain a deep insight into her self-warring personality, and Maud has created some Pinterest boards to help visualise their appearances and general sense of character.
The backstories of the characters were really interesting, though sometimes the recounting of past events was rather information dense. Aristomachos recalling his youthful exploits with Aion and Hython was particularly exciting, but I kept getting distracted from it whenever I remembered that Aristomachos was narrating this all to Aion (who would surely already know this?), and referring to himself in third person too. Often the characters would point out that the recount was, essentially an info-dump, for example by commenting that 'they don't need a history lesson', but I'm not sure if this in itself makes it not an info-dump.
The plot twist at the end was very unexpected! I was a little confused about Drynoe's wrathful reaction to the big reveal, and doubt the trustworthiness of a character that pops up near the end, but I feel like it's deliberately left unresolved, for the sequel to pick up the threads and carry on.
All in all, a highly original, introspective and strongly character-driven fantasy novel that raises many interesting philosophical questions.
Every life is worth it, if there might be even just one moment in it when its master can say ‘I am complete’. This moment... do you think we have already passed it by?
Many thanks to the author for a gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.