Thousands of years ago the four Gods of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water created the world, then placed their powers in four sets of artefacts. Gifting the artefacts to four chosen mortals they created the first Guardians. Now, with the kidnapping of Queen Ortana from under their noses, two of the current Guardians find themselves at the centre of a plot to take the power of the Gods.
The plot was engaging with plenty of reversals and the main characters all worked toward their goals with a believable level of fallibility. The world is also both deep and varied with several clearly distinct races. If anything the depth is was too great for the length of the book, leaving me wanting to explore more of the culture and society of the differing races than fitted around the plot.
The novel balanced faster and slower scenes well, creating an overall fast but not overwhelming pace. Although it is the first book in a series, so leaves the core arc incomplete, it does conclude several major arcs so did not leave me feeling dissatisfied with the ending.
However, the writing style let the plot down. The descriptions of the character’s, both main and supporting, are overused. As an example, one of the main characters is a blue skinned red-eyed Guardian called Vandrik. Whenever he is in a scene these traits are mentioned: a certain look settles on his blue skin; someone gazes into his red eyes; the Guardian, Vandrik, enters the room. The same repetition of traits several times occurs with many characters, most noticeably with the race of most non-human characters. This left an impression that Hisko did not expect me to remember the details between scenes.
This feeling was compounded by the choice of narrator. While the story focuses on the actions of a few named characters it is told in by an omniscient narrator from a children’s book. There are several instances where the narrator addresses rhetorical questions to the reader then informs them that they are – or are not – going to be told the answer. The style was so similar that – were it not for mentions of sexual attraction and an adult perspective on violence – I would have wondered if it were a children’s book.
Another, less forgivable, issue with the narration was that it often dips into the heads of several characters in a single scene. While this is sometimes merely humorous (some flying horses are described as neighing as if having a conversation, followed immediately by a description of the conversation they are having) it also left an impression that many of the secrets which are exposed later in the book are secrets because Hisko choose not to have the holder think about them rather than them emerging naturally.
The redeeming feature of this novel is the construction of its characters. While the constant description began to wear, it was easy to empathise with the characters being described and the villains they faced had an equal level of depth. I certainly wanted to know what happened next and will consider reading the rest of the series.
Overall I enjoyed this book for its plot. However, the style was very intrusive in places, so I would not recommend it to people who want a seamless reading experience.
I received a free copy of this novel.