My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC which in no way influenced my review.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt I loved this. It even has a few things I don't normally care for (a cliffhanger ending, more on that later) but I didn't mind because it was just that great. The earliest buzz I saw for this said it was based off South/Central American culture and that's now been changed to inspired by which is far more accurate (I can definitely see some of the Aztec in this) but it is purely fantasy.
It follows three main characters, (lifting two of them right from the blurb) Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. And the third is Naranpa, the Sun Priestess born into the poverty of the Maw but lifted to a position of power, a place many feel she, as a slum born, has no rights to.
Our three main characters share one thing: a hard-knock, underdog life. Of the three I was least invested in Nara and that's not because she's not an interesting character. It's just the Machiavellian scheming and political power struggles weren't that interesting to me. They rarely are and reading this during the last weeks of the election didn't help me any with it. Nara is caught between political infighting among the priests, her own attempts at reform and the dyed in the wool traditions of the Sky-Made clans (the ruling powers of Tova). Her only protection is one of the Knives who protect the priests, her non-binary ex lover who may or may not be on her side.
I instantly bonded to both Serapio and Xiala. Serapio has the exact type of tragic backstory I am a sucker for. As part of the Tovan Carrion Crow clan (a clan that has suffered at the hands of the Sun priests), though raised in a different land, Serapio has been left scarred and blinded and filled with both skills and magics that will serve his destiny (and let me leave it at that vague term from the blurb so not to spoil anything). I had Xiala's reaction to him. I wanted to hold and comfort him. His story is told from both today's view point and from his childhood which is very important to the story. He has to cross the sea to get to Tova by the solstice. He's an extremely well developed character and I absolutely loved him.
I also adored Xiala, a delightful bi-disaster who drinks a bit too much, sleeps with the wrong people but is one helluva sea captain. She's also a teek, a strange group of seafaring women whom others often fear, despise and see as having magical importance (in a creepy way). She is a great deal of fun and I want much much more of her.
I was sucked into the story line burning my way through it quickly (which is unusual as ebooks give me headaches so I'm pretty slow at them but that's how netgalley does their ARCS). As I said it does end on a cliffhanger, however it didn't feel bad or like a cheat to make you buy book two which is often how cliffhangers feel to me. Instead pretty much all the plot lines resolve in book one but now you're sucked into seeing how all the changes those plot lines will make in these characters' lives and to their world. I can't wait for book two. Also anyone who can talk to crows gets kudos from me (loved Serapio, truly)
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