By using the energy of the land, some humans have found they can develop extraordinary abilities. At the age of seventeen, these warriors, magicians, chemists, and psychics are allowed the opportunity to train at the Academy, increasing their opportunity for a well-paying career. But there’s a catch. They must fight beside the Army if requested by their king. Most aren’t concerned by this, as the current treaty has prevented battle for nearly seventy years…but that’s about to change.
Of four roommates with interwoven stories, Cleve Polken takes focus as a hostile warrior who feels more comfortable in a duel than a conversation. Never getting past his parents’ death, Cleve has developed a crippling fear of psychics, for some may have the power to resurface the torment he buried within himself upon his parents’ passing. Cleve’s forced to face this fear head-on when he discovers that not only is one of his roommates a psychic, but that he has an overwhelming attraction to her, which he quickly attributes to a psychic spell, nothing more.
By the time an army of savage, reptilian men called Krepps become involved in the war, all hope of resolution without battle is shattered. In this powerful army, one born with the inability to smell doesn’t have the same feeding urges as his fellow Krepps and is outcast because of it. He finds himself with an unlikely ally in the middle of a crossroad, trying to find a way to reunite with his sister. Little does he know how much his choices will twist the fate of the war and alter the lives of the four human roommates forever.
Review: I have mixed feelings about this book, some parts were excellent but there were some disappointing things too. It’s one of those books I wish I could give a half star rating to because three seems too low, but four is too high.
Initially I didn’t like the main characters in the story. For most of the main characters, we are shown fairly negative traits such as recklessly putting another in danger to get what they wanted, uncaring of others and being anti-social, killing of an animal because it was a ‘failed’ experiment, and teenage drinking (although in their world you are considered an adult at fourteen). The only character who has shown to have positive traits was Zoke, who is a member of the race of antagonists in the story.
While it is generally a great idea to give the ‘good’ characters negative traits in a story, having most of the cast behave in this way at the start of the book didn’t work for me as it put me off them for quite a bit of the book. Fortunately as we get to see more of them, we get to see the good in them and I found myself supporting them, but this took longer than it should have due to how they started out.
I did think the start of the story was rushed and that some of the characters built up relationships too quickly, not necessarily romantic relationships, but ones where people were prepared to risk their lives or freedom, for someone they had only just met.
The thoughts and feelings of the characters were really well explained and detailed. I really felt I was in their head and could hear what they were thinking. As well as being well explained, they also seemed to have believable emotions behind them, such as self-doubt, attraction to others, fear, and worry whether they are being influenced by Psyches.
The rest of the descriptions were also well written and for the most part it was easy to follow what was happening and feel like you were in the world. Only a couple of times did I find myself having to reread a paragraph to understand what was happening.
Some of the time I did think that things were over-explained. This would often manifest when we are told something for the first time, I found the explanation went on for several paragraphs too long in an attempt to really make sure the reader ‘got it’. Other times the problem was when something was re-explained, the reminder could go on for quite a few paragraphs when only one or two would have done. Whenever this happened it broke up the flow of the story.
Conversely some things are either not explained enough or not until much later in the story. For example an important plot point is that bows are illegal, we are told in the first couple of pages that they are illegal and one of the main characters owns one, but we are not told why until later in the story. I found this frustrating as I felt this should have been explained much earlier.
Some of the conversations characters had were unnatural and seemed to only be there to explain a plot point or perform some world building. This often takes the form of one character telling something that realistically they should already know or was written in a way it felt the author was speaking to the reader rather than one character to another. This clunkiness pulled me out of the story and didn’t feel right.
One particularly bad example of these was when one of the main characters has been arrested and being brought before the king for a crime that could give life imprisonment. While being taken through the castle the guard is giving our character a guided tour and telling him about how various things worked. As well as being unnatural it took away the dramatic tension as it felt if the guard is telling him all these things, then our character can’t be in trouble.
There were some inconsistencies in the story, the worst examples were centered around the psyches whose abilities seemed to vary greatly, even within the same character. Sometimes they would be able to do something psychically with ease and other times they wouldn’t be able to do a similar action at all. This seemed to be plot driven rather than follow any believable pattern. These inconsistencies made it harder to find the story realistic in its own universe.
Some of the timelines also didn’t seem to fit and it seemed a lot more time passed for some characters compared to what happened with others.
The choice of sending our main characters (who are first years at the academy) on a dangerous and important mission didn’t seem right. The explanation given, that the rulers wanted to save all the older students and graduates for battle just didn’t seem right. Removing around five people from the army wouldn’t make a difference to a battle, but it could make a big difference to the outcome of such an important mission.
Due to some scenes of a sexual nature and some swearing the book is really only suitable for an adult audience (18+).
Overall I would rate this book 3 ½ stars. The story was good but let down by inconsistencies within it own rules, some over explaining, or things occurring that didn’t seem natural. The characters were good, despite my initial dislike of them.
In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
Rating *** ½