Recommended Age: 16+
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Tags: Disguise, Diversity, Magic, Mythology, Religion, Romance, Royalty, War
- Mature violence: battles resulting in death, physical attacks, kidnapping, self-harm and torture.
- Moderate language: some swearing, threats, and verbal abuse.
- Moderate sexuality: multiple detailed kissing scenes.
This book opens with Nadya and her best friend Kostya stuck on potato duty in the cellar of a monastery after their pranks went a step too far, and balanced a lighthearted humor with dark struggles. For a somewhat serious book with heavy drama and war scenes, it was a pleasant surprise to find humor immediately upon delving into the story.
The plot very quickly progresses into a battle scene, and Nadya is forced to abandon everyone she loves and leave her home. She is a cleric, and is granted magic and counsel from the gods. Her journey takes her into enemy territory as she uses all of her strength and resources to save her country from the Tranavian heretics who have abandoned the gods and attack Nadya’s country, Kalyazin, in order to wipe out their religion.
Nadya is the last known cleric, and Serefin (which is oddly close to seraphim, as in an angel) the high prince of Tranavia hunts her down to kill her. When he doesn’t find her, on account of her gaining powerful allies who convince her to travel with them to the palace and kill the Tranavian king, he assumes the Vultures took care of her. The Vultures are the true villains of this book, people who chose to push the limits of humanity and become more, through blood and magic and death. They feel very much like an ancient Russian boogeyman and definitely add a darker tone to the story.
Nadya has lived a very sheltered life in a monastery in the middle of nowhere, but she handles this change of scenery with strength and faith that her gods will show her which path she needs to take. But as she travels further from home, she learns more about herself and her magic, and how far her abilities extend. She learns how to survive, and what it will really take to win this war.
The cover is gorgeous, and beautifully displays the tone of the book. The two warring countries are based on Russia and Poland, and the plot is deeply influenced by Dungeons and Dragons, hence the intricate myths and lore. Russian literature portrays Russia as a land of deep rooted religious superstition and a strong sense of self sacrifice, which is clearly evident in Kalyazin.
I love how the author lets the reader learn with Nadya, and doesn’t overload us with too much detail and information. She trusts the reader to connect the dots and put the clues together to see the big picture. The ending is spectacular, and promises a deliciously twisted series.
Nadya is a great protagonist, and it’s really cool to read about her magic and how she discovers the depths of her abilities. Malachiasz pushes her to search for answers in darker places, and ask questions about her life that she never thought were possible. He’s a delightfully twisted character, and never fails to surprise. Serefin starts as a brutal soldier, but turns into an heir to a broken kingdom who, like Nadya, just wants to save his people. These three put together a strong dynamic that balances all the driving forces in this war on magic and religion.
It’s a fantastic book, with gorgeous imagery and detail. It has a very dark gothic romantic feel to it, much like the old Eastern European legends that make you feel like the world is a strange, dark place for such fragile creatures who manage to push themselves beyond what makes them human.
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