Hey all, Dani here.
I miss playing Dungeons & Dragons so much. We used to play 3 sessions every other weekend, having a Friday game, a Saturday afternoon game, and a Sunday afternoon game. We haven’t been able to gather for the past two months, and so I’ve been trying to compensate by picking up some thick fantasy reads that will give me some D&D vibes.
Plus, I was lucky enough to be granted access to this book from Orbit Books on NetGalley, which made me even more excited to pick it up. And man oh man, this definitely hit the spot. So thank you to Orbit Books and NetGalley for letting me read this book. Though, I would have picked it up on my own anyway (and I already have bought my own copy), so my rating and opinions are my own, and were not swayed by the early digital copy.
Finally I’ll say that I’ve been picking up quite a few Orbit Books items lately, and they are definitely becoming one of my favorite fantasy and sci-fi publishers out there.
Okay, let’s jump into the review.
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
ISBN: 0316454621 (ISBN13: 9780316454629)
When their father is murdered by imperial soldiers, two siblings set out on opposite paths—one will destroy the Empire forever and the other will save it—in this thrilling new Russian inspired epic fantasy from Jon Skovron.
Sonya is training to be a Ranger of Marzanna, an ancient sect of warriors who have protected the land for generations. But the old ways are dying, and the rangers have all been forced into hiding or killed off by the invading Empire.
When her father is murdered by imperial soldiers, she decides to finally take action. Using her skills as a ranger she will travel across the bitter cold tundra and gain the allegiance of the only other force strong enough to take down the invaders.
But nothing about her quest will be easy. Because not everyone is on her side. Her brother, Sebastian, is the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever seen. And he’s fighting for the empire.
Rating: 5 stars
This book gave me so many ideas for my campaigns. The goddess Marzanna made me think a lot about the Raven Queen, and it only made me want to play D&D again even more than normal. Anyway, the siblings in this story are a ranger and a sorcerer, and they are both amazingly and terrifyingly powerful.
Seriously, the action in this book starts in the very first chapter. I could tell from the first couple pages that I was going to be in love with this story. Sonya is a great archer and horse rider, and it is easy to see how the Rangers of Marzanna have earned their fearsome reputation. The villages and the common people still revere these fabled warriors as well.
The culture and world-building and phrasing and beliefs of this world were captivating to me. I love that we’re starting to get more books with a Slavic influence. I’d love to continue seeing us get more stories from cultures that aren’t Western European or American in inspiration.
Oh, and also, there is so much going on in this book. There is action and adventure and friendship and romance and political machinations and war and life/death and religion. It was utterly fantastic. Honestly the chemistry between characters, no matter the relationship between them, is why I selected this book for the Calendar Girls Springtime Whirl prompt: Fireworks (read a book you think has the best chemistry in it).
I could go on and on gushing about how much I enjoyed this book. I could talk about how I was so invested in the lives of the characters. It was fascinating to see the different perspectives and twists on events depending on which side of the conflict the characters were on. Sonya very obviously saw the Empire in one way, while Sebastian’s opinions were very heavily based on the words and wisdom of the nobles and officers of the Empire surrounding him. Then when you throw in Galina and Jorge and Irina as POV characters as well, you see even more points of view and more perspective and experiences and opinions. It is so deeply complex and intense and wonderful.
I absolutely loved reading this book and cannot wait to pick up the sequel, The Queen of Izmoroz.