This is a high fantasy story about Morgan, a university student studying folklore and living with a disability that causes daily seizures, among other symptoms. Around the same time that his symptoms start worsening, he discovers the existence of elves, and, if the creatures that showed up in his house are to be believed, he himself might be an elf and a prince. Hoping to find a cure for his illness, he goes with them to the land of the elves. From there, he’s given a quest, and he gets further entangled in elf politics.
I really enjoyed this story! The beginning was slow (more on that below), but I got hooked as it went on. There were some unique things, and the portrayal of the elves and their society was interesting. They were beautiful and otherworldly and immortal and cruel, and some of the individual elves were intriguing, like Sedetnet (I have no idea how to spell that because I listened to the audio) and the way he used dice to make decisions just to escape boredom and add some unpredictability to his immortally long life.
I enjoy the writing too. It was kind of like that old-timey, eloquent writing, but still easily understandable.
Morgan was a great character. He loved learning. He loved stories. At first I thought he was kind of pompous, but that feeling went away the further I got into the book, and I found him to be determined, compassionate, and humble. He just wanted to be independent and live the same kind of life healthy people could. As the book went on, I think he became more able to roll with the punches and take things in stride. There were a few things he handled maybe a little too easily to be believable, but that wasn’t a big deal to me.
Speaking of Morgan, the chronic illness he had was not a real one (it had a fantasy-related cause), but it was one of the most realistic depictions of chronic illness I’ve ever read about. His illness is nothing like the one I have, but I could still relate to some of the emotional aspects and how much it impacted his life. It wasn’t the happy, inspirational depiction you often find in media, but I think this kind of depiction is important too. And it’s not like he was portrayed in a negative way—he went on this whole adventure. Normally I don’t like storylines in which a character’s illness turns out to be a fantasy thing and there’s going to be a magical cure available to them, but I felt like it worked here, especially since the illness was portrayed so well.
While I’m on this topic, I’ll say that there was a lot of description of Morgan’s symptoms and pain, and from the standpoint of story pacing, it did slow things down in the beginning, and there were long stretches where not that much actually happened. However, from the standpoint of putting the reader in the characters shoes, I thought it was great. It really showed you just how much his life was affected by it. I also think it was necessary for the reader to understand how bad it was in order to understand the seemingly impulsive decision he made to go to the elves. Anyway, I wasn’t bothered by it, and the pain/seizure episodes were mentioned with less and less detail as the book went on.
The friend and family relationships in this book were great too. They were so deep and meaningful. These were characters who weren’t afraid of their feelings or afraid to feel deeply for others, especially Morgan.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and I loved the narration by Philip Battley. It sounded natural, it had just the right amount of emotion, and the narrator had a nice voice and accent.
Overall, this book started slow, but for good reason, and I was hooked by the end. These elves and their society were fascinating, the disability was realistically portrayed, the characters were interesting, and I look forward to continuing!
Trigger warning: Suicide attempt. Many mentions of vomiting.
Anyone who likes high fantasy, magic, characters with disabilities, and compassionate characters.
More Books in the Series:
[Audio]Book Review: An Heir to Thorns and Steel (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth
[Audio]Book Review: By Vow and Royal Bloodshed (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 2) by M.C.A. Hogarth
[Audio]Book Review: On Wings of Bone and Glass (Blood Ladders Trilogy Book 3) by M.C.A. Hogarth
Morgan Locke, university student, has been hiding his debilitating illness with fair enough success when two unlikely emissaries arrive bearing the news that he is prince to a nation of creatures out of folklore. Ridiculous! And yet, if magic exists…could it heal him? The ensuing journey will resurrect the forgotten griefs of history, and before it’s over, all the world will be remade by thorns and steel….
Book 1 of the Blood Ladders trilogy, an epic fantasy with sociopathic elves, vampiric genets, and the philosophy students mixed up in the lot.