Nerasia Saga, book 1
Brianna da Silva
Every now and then, I come across the question of how long a book should be, often asked by an author working on, or about to publish their first book. The “correct” answer is of course that a book should be no longer and no shorter than it needs to be to tell its story. At the same time, I usually point out that I’m unlikely to commit to a humongous epic story by someone I’ve not read before, if it doesn’t come with strong recommendations. As a slow reader, a book of even a few hundred pages can take me up to a week to get through (unless I’m locked down at home over the weekend).
At just below one thousand pages in its printed form, this book is massive, and if I’d listened to myself, I probably wouldn’t have even started it.
As it were, I came across City of Reckoning in a self-promotion thread, and the author did a great job of pitching it (I’ve forgotten what she said, but it was a lot more interesting than “buy my book”), so I downloaded a sample. The sample, in turn, was not immediately captivating, but it had something that kept pulling me back. There were people I was curious about and wanted to get to know better, and after finishing not just the sample, but the full book, I feel like this is where the strength of the story lies.
The main characters all come with deep flaws, near suffocating darkness, and a stubborn desire to do what they believe is right and make the world a better place. At least one of them could easily have been a cold-blooded, terrifying villain in someone else’s story.
It’s hard not to care for them.
So what’s it about? Young heroes fight for freedom for themselves and their people – against an invading empire, against the tyranny of their own rulers, and against the prejudice of those around them. It’s not necessarily a new and original plot, but like I mentioned above, this books is about the characters. The war and the revolution are just reasons to drag the poor bastards through hell in order to get to know them better.
Does it make me a bad person that I really enjoyed it?
Despite it’s length, the book didn’t feel long. The pace was rarely fast, but at the same time, it never dragged, and it was easy to get lost in the world between the words.
What I’ll whine about
The Food. Multiple times, the food served up was described in a way that made it sound like something from the menu of a better-than-average restaurant, rather than what I’d expect to find on the table of a farmer in a medieval-ish fantasy setting. In fairness, I can’t claim to know anything about the eating habits of ordinary people in imaginary worlds, but it still broke my immersion while reading.
The war. I’m sure it was explained why it happened, but even partway through the book, I couldn’t remember why the empire was invaded.
What I’ll gush about
Characters. As mention earlier, the characters make the story. Their personal struggles and conflicts are what stand out, and why I’m looking forward to the second part of the series. Despite the darkness within them, and the atrocities at last one of them carries out, I grew to care for and worry about them.
It should also be mentioned that while the characters have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow, they take their time about, and don’t just step into the light the moment it shows itself. Each of them stubbornly cling to their beliefs and their ways of seeing things, and while they eventually come around, it’s neither easy nor painless – and that just makes these people even more real.
Atmosphere. Contrast and contradiction. The story is dark and brutally violent, with guts and gore splashing across the page. At the same time, the book also manages to feel like a good ol’ wholesome adventure story. It’s not something I can, or want to, put my finger on. I’ll just settle for liking it, a lot.
World building. It’s obvious from reading that a lot of thought and effort has gone into creating the setting of the story. There are mythologies and beliefs, languages and cultures. Multiple genders. There may or may not be magic, and there are definitely people who are more than human. I’m particularly fond of the main character with a pair of large bat wings growing out of their back.
This is a massive chonker of a book, but it still feels like a quick, easy read.