This book opens up with a prologue in which a man writing a memoir describes what a man he never met was thinking. I should have known then I was in for a rough ride.
The Shadari are coastal fishing folk whose land is brutally invaded and occupied by the Norlanders. After twenty years of occupation rebellion is brewing, and famed mercenary ‘The Mongrel’ is called in to lead it. What follows is a convoluted, logic defying plot that never quite figured out what kind of book it wanted to be. How many times do we say that a trilogy could have fit into two books with better editing? This book had the opposite problem; as ambitious as the author was it could have easily been stretched to two or three books to better set up the story.
So what went wrong? Almost nothing passed the internal logic test in my mind. Start with The Mongrel herself, as she is the closest thing to a main character the book has. Start with the fact that she falls under the ‘half-breed’ trope (torn between two worlds, prone to anger, untrustable ). A famed mercenary in a land that allows no writing, was at peace with its only neighbor before the occupation, and is now cut off from all contact due to the occupation. Where did she gain her fame? Who was she fighting? To top it off she is almost insanely powerful for now explained reason.
There was a lot of inconsistency in the world building. For the most part it seemed made up as it went along for convenience sake. The Shadari cannot hear the Norlanders telepathy, but the neighboring tribe can (was there no mixing between the two?). It causes pain and even injury to Norlanders when touched by the Shadari, yet the Shadari never use this as a weapon? More confusing, when the book decides to switch into a ‘forbidden love’ novel at the halfway point they are somehow able to touch, though how is unexplained. Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out a map in my head, or even the size of the Shadari settlement. I don’t think the author even knows.
Lastly, the book never did decide what it wanted to be. I would have loved the rebellion set in a quasi-Greek culture novel described on the blurb. Instead it started as a novel of rebellion, went into forbidden love, went a little a crazy about 2/3 in, then finished up with the rebellion again. This was not a blending of different genres mind, but distinctly different styles with little cohesion.
Characters acted irrationally. Slavers are suddenly suffragist, The Mongrel’s moves are meant to be mysterious but come off confusing, and the explanation for the main villain’s villainy is laughable. I could make heads or tails out of the couple love stories, right up to the end I just didn’t understand what the author was doing with her characters.
Bah, a rambling, incoherent review I think, but honestly I just didn’t care much about this book and I am ready to forget it. Sorry. I will try harder next time.
2 Stars, but only because I finished it.