I enjoyed this epic fantasy novel thanks to its strong compelling characters and character development. Too often in fantasy an unlikely group is thrown together by circumstance and merrily go off on some quest where everything is neatly resolved at the end. What author Elspeth Cooper has managed, is to create some very human characters who are all on personal journeys, asking themselves questions and which direction to take. The narrative forms a multi perspective and the story shifts to different places as the drama unfolds.
This is a world of factions, clans and unsteady alliances. It is also made clear that survival is not to be taken for granted; this is a dangerous and unpredictable world where pain and regret punish every unintentional misstep.
Each character is striving for something: power, conquest, peace, love. Everyone has different motives but all are swept up and affected by the struggle afflicting their world. This takes place on a large canvas and there are battles, harsh conditions and lots of gore (some of the scenes made for hard reading). For all the magic, known here as `The Song', the pain and suffering is all too real and convincing.
Characters like Teia and Gair have to use every ounce of their guile, experience and wits to navigate this potential minefield. Cooper manages to weave a web of intrigue and combine this with tough storytelling and wonderfully descriptive prose, keeping the reader engrossed and engaged. If you are not already familiar with her work, then I implore you to read one of her books, you will not be disappointed.