This book is a subversion of the Chosen One trope. Mathias is the prophesied hero who will save the world of Aldrea from the all-consuming forces of darkness. He’s charismatic, clever, true-hearted, blond, and has both a special sword and a birthmark shaped like Aldrea on his forehead. He has been raised in a remote village by a woman who is more than she seems, and when the call to adventure peals Mathias is more than ready to venture forth and save the world. His best friend, Aaslo, is willng to accompany him for the sake of keeping the Chosen One’s head on his shoulders (both literally and figuratively), but things don’t always go according to plan…
It’s hard to review this novel, since there is an event that occurs within the first five chapters that will completely change your expectations of this book and leave you in the dark. I absolutely will not spoil it, but it’s such a big thing that I’m floundering a bit as I struggle to find something to say.
There is no big romantic subplot in this novel, which is very refreshing. All of the characters are definitely feeling the pressure of the looming apocalypse and have other things on their minds. There is the potential for such a subplot later in the series, but the romantic tension between the characters is so subtle that at the end of the first book I was still in the dark about who might end up with whom.
And the characters! My favorite characters were definitely Teza, the most stubborn fictional woman I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and Aaslo’s horse, who can’t seem to decide between being the dumbest animal alive and far more knowing than a horse has any right to be. This book uses multiple perspectives, but not every character gets a section where their perspective is followed. I especially loved the way the nonhuman characters were written; Kade avoided the worst cliches and her choices as an author felt very refreshing to me.
Overall, this book is definitely high fantasy, but I got the feeling that Kade was very aware of the conventions of the genre and made an effort to either deliberately toy with them or else subvert them entirely. Reading this book felt both familiar and new at the same time; I loved predicting what might happen next in this fantasy plot and then being proven wrong over and over. I will definitely be picking up the next book in this series whenever it is released.