First in the series led by enigmatic and lovable heroine
December, 10 2014
This is the first in a series following the fate of a girl called Aithera, whose miraculous birth immediately sets her apart for an extraordinary life. Born into an important position, as the first girl child of the Kilbray estate, Aithera’s infancy is shaped by the pressure of her future marriage and the possible gifts she might inherit.
The book begins with a prologue, whose distant, magical tone does a great job of raising Aithera to myth-like status. From this atmospheric beginning, the Swem pair structure and pace Aithera’s story suspensefully and romantically, every so often cleanly jumping into a new era of her life, and reminding us of time’s passing by counting her summers. In this way, Aithera’s life and the world she’s growing up into comes clear to the reader, and with an increasing sense of foreboding as she grows into a more beautiful, and more dangerous, presence.
Especially effective are the passages where Aithera’s possible marriage is compared to a breeding cycle or a kind of natural selection; the recurring significance of breeding, animals, and genetic qualities keep the thematic quality of the world strong and recognizable.
The criticism I’d make of this world building is that, though the suspense for the emergence of Aithera’s special qualities is well done, I think the reader needs just one or two more hints about the magical qualities of the world as a whole. We get a brief history of the Kilbray family from Gretta in Chapter 8, but many of the references, to dragons, to mages, to Aithera’s elvish antecedents, are revealed without much explanation as new features of the world. Many of the magical elements are assumed rather than shown.
Language and word choice are other aspects of the novel’s world building that are a little inconsistent at times. I appreciated the moments of humor and romance between the characters, but often their speech patterns and vocabularies were changeable, archaic and formal one moment, completely contemporary the next. This led to comical changes in tone, but also made it difficult to imagine the world at times, and took me out of the flow of reading.
But despite the questions I had about tone and back story, the plot, pace, relationships, and characterization of the novel’s heroine, are all really well deployed and allow the reader a clear and compelling reading experience. What’s more, Aithera is a really lovable protagonist and you can’t help but root for her, which is a must-have quality for the first book in a series.
Do you agree with her assessment? Thank you Georgina for your review.