A TYRANNICAL KINGDOM. AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE. AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST.
Tempani of Amarill, a young noblewoman of mixed race, dreams of a Kamara united in race and class. Thrust from the convent into court life, Tempani struggles to find her place in a city she no longer recognizes. Starved commoners fight the crown, women have no rights, and her mother’s people hide in the south to avoid persecution. Banned from using her powers, Tempani feels helpless. But her magic is always there. A gentle hum under her skin, threatening to explode the more she sees people suffering.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (It's OK)
***Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.*** There's things to like here, and things that need work. I enjoyed the premise a lot, but the worldbuilding is sorely lacking. There's a lot mythology and history behind the story but you barely get to see any of it and I honestly don't know why. The open analogy to real life politics and racial tensions was refreshing, especially between two groups that were clearly Black (Kalaowin) and White (Kamari), and was portrayed well in many spots. But the devil's in the details- or lack of them.
Typical of a first novel, there's far too much telling instead of showing- we're always told about someone's state of being instead of witnessing their behavior and empathizing with their struggles and decisions. There's also no sense of time or distance as people travel from one place to the next in the space between paragraphs, giving none of it any context. They say they're going somewhere and suddenly they've arrived. There were a few instances where it seemed the author started to expand on something but then forgot to finish. Nuggets of information and leaps in logic spring up almost constantly in the early part of the story, only to reappear later in full form and leave you wondering what you missed.
As for the characters, it's a mixed bag. Tempani, our heroine, is strong, kinda smart and very determined. She's very likable as is her brother, Chae, and most of their friends. But being of mixed race makes the siblings all but pariahs at court, yet their father retains a sensitive position in the king's inner circle despite having married a woman who's 'one of them' and siring children. Part of their troubles stem from an ancient prophecy about a Kalaowin woman who would lead a rebellion- many believing it referred to his wife, and later his daughter. How he managed to retain his position in the midst of all this, I've no idea.
The villians were villainous, and pretty obvious about it. No subtlety at all. Magic exists, but typically isn't clearly defined, leaving lots of wiggle room to do or not do things. As things progressed the story started veering off into cliches and even a few Joseph Campbell archetypes (you can't miss them) before rushing, and I do mean rushing, into the climax.
I like the story, I like the characters, I like the world and I'd like to see more of it. But it needs fleshing out, revising and editing; it would've worked much better for the author and us readers as a duology.