*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
This is one of those books that’s so hard to review because it’s so different and almost kind of ethereal and fairytale-esque in a way that defies description.
The story starts off by kind of summarizing and giving us snippets of Trueblood’s childhood and teen years and getting the reader accustomed to the world and its mythology. Eventually it gets to Trueblood when he’s 19 and becomes more focused and set in one time. The characters discover they’re part of an important prophecy and set off by ship to fulfill it.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews that talk about how beautiful this book is, but I want to make this clear: parts of this book are beautiful, and as a whole it’s beautiful, but other parts are horrifying, disturbing, and tragic. There is child slavery and rape, trauma, grief, suffering, and both physical and emotional pain. Characters endured terrible things. Characters did terrible things themselves, sometimes out of desperation or love.
The characters were wonderful. Trueblood was kind, fair, and understanding. Fen was surly at times, struggling with guilt and trauma and fear of intimacy, but with good intentions in life. Raj and Lejo were fun, loyal, and sweet. Everyone felt distinct and complex.
The relationships were touching. The romance between Trueblood and Fen took a while and had a rocky beginning, but that was because there was always this thrum of want and tension between them, even when Fen didn’t want to admit it. And once they finally got close and admitted their love, it was such a beautiful, solid relationship. The friendship bond between Trueblood and the twins (Raj and Lejo) was just as beautiful and strong in a different way. There was also the way Fen came to view them like family, and the way Trueblood looked up to his father, and how Abrakam was always there for all of them as a guardian figure, and the young love and explorations between characters in the past, and all of it was just so sweet.
The world was fantastical. Trueblood was descended from giants. Fen was part of a race of beings who could shift between human, horse, or half (like a centaur) form and also sprout wings and fly. There were also centaurs and minotaurs and krakens and gods and a giant tree that grew an almost magical substance with a sort of healing property and mythical ships that would show up right when they were needed. There was so much uniqueness and mythology to this world.
But as I said, there was also sadness. Every character had their struggles, their traumas, whether it was living with chronic pain and a drug addiction, or being kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child and doing terrible things to get out, or losing loved ones, or selling their souls for someone they loved.
Storytelling was a big theme throughout the book. The POV was that of an omniscient narrator telling us, the readers, the story of Trueblood and Fen, but it mostly felt like 3rd person limited through the alternating POVs of Trueblood and Fen.
This is technically part of a series, but this is the book that a character in that series has written. You can definitely read this without reading that series, it functions as a standalone, and I know this because I have not read that series.
Overall, this was a fantastical, magical sort of book with lovely characters and touching relationships that had a lot of heaviness and hardship but also a lot of beauty and love.
Trigger/Content Warnings: Child rape and slavery (rape not really depicted on-page I don’t think, but mentioned a lot). Corporal punishment.
Anyone who likes stories that are beautiful but also have a lot of heaviness, fantasy worlds, storytelling as a theme, and loving relationships of all kinds.