by Charlotte E. English
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reading challenge: Freebie February – 1st book
When shy and retiring Llandry Sanfaer discovers a mesmerizing new gemstone, she suddenly becomes the most famous jeweller across the Seven Realms. Demand for the coveted stone escalates fast; when people begin dying for it, Llandry finds that she herself has become a target.
Lady Evastany Glostrum has her life in pristine order. Prestigious, powerful and wealthy, she is on the verge of crowning her successes with the perfect marriage. But when her closest friend is murdered for the jewellery she wears, Eva is drawn into the mystery surrounding the curious “istore” gem.
The emergence of the stone is causing chaos across the Seven. Gates between the worlds are opening at will, pulling hordes of creatures through from the shadowy Lower Realm and the glittering Uppers. As Eva works to discover the culprit behind the spreading disorder, Llandry must learn the truth about her precious istore stone — before she herself becomes a victim.
Rating is 3.5 stars, but since I really liked the ending and the resolution of the mystery propelling the story forward, I’m feeling like giving it 4 stars.
That is to say, the story has its flaws, especially since it is damn hard to keep the exotic terms for animals, plants, objects and so forth apart and clearly defined in your mind. There is a glossary, but I was pulled out of the story one too many times to appreciate the author’s imagination and creativity here. I did come to love the realms and the magic suffusing them, so not all is lost. In fact, I’m looking forward to reading the sequels. And that is the highest praise an author can get from me. 😀
There are different kinds of magical people, with varying appearance and strengths, so the world building is very detailed. It is pure fantasy and you need to get used to it at first, but the longer you read, the easier it becomes to grasp the differences, to appreciate the details. There were several mysteries that were neatly answered and not easily guessable – how refreshing!
Llandry is a very shy, even reclusive person dwarfed by her parents’ shadow, but she comes into her own in the end, probably out of sheer necessity to do something her parents would deem unwise or reckless. I did not particularly care for her at first since she was far too timid for me, but I grew to like her best of all characters. The dynamic she has with Devary, a family friend, and clearly a love interest despite little progress there, is refreshing. I hope to see more on that front eventually.
Lady Eva (as she’s called by friends), is a competent woman, but it took me a very long time to like her. At first she appeared too cold, to alien to me to appreciate her strengths. She is a competent summoner of magical animals, so we get to see her a lot. I guess she’ll turn out to be one the chief players in the sequels.
The villains are crafty and just crazy enough to test their own strengths in the course of the book, so that we are quite unprepared for their plans. We barely meet them for the first 2/3 of the book! Perhaps that is why I had some trouble reading the story. You know, having a sense that there’s danger around and knowing an attack is coming are two very different things. I prefer the second scenario because the tension is so much higher and consequently my investment in the characters more firm and decisive. Still, it’s a good read all in all. 😀