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Just not quite at Pierce's usual standard
on 3 May 2015
I have rated this against all of Tamora Pierce's other books, which are in a class of their own TA fantasy wise. It hurt to only give it three stars. I am a big fan if Ms Pierce, her books are always on pre-order as soon as they are available with me. I love the winding circle universe and Briar, Evvy and Rosethorn are favorites in that universe.
This was a bit disappointing. Mostly I feel that it felt rushed. This was such a huge topic. Without careering into being dull, this could easily have been two books of the same length. The political intrigue and the horrors of war necessitated that. That's before you even get into the complex inter character relationships. I wanted to be fully immersed in this story, instead it felt like I was constantly being jerked out to skim over the surface like a fresh water boatman while in the tantalizing depths below, glimmers of intrigue and interest were out of my reach.
I don't believe this was the fault of the author per se. It feels over edited. It also smacks of 'this is YA, you can't include that.' It was frustrating. We already know that something very bad happens to all three of them from Will of the Empress. We needed to understand why.
Potential SPOILER ALERT!
The plot point that annoyed me was the way that the three MCs were divided. It wasn't necessary and it didn't feel likely. Rosethorn's mission seemed very tacked on. That entire thread could have been removed instead if some of the gritty stuff that clearly was removed, and it would have been a more streamlined story. I also don't believe that Briar would have just left Evvy after caring for her for so long, especially given her past. There was not enough description or use of the mages ambient magics. It was all overcast by the the general battle.
What I loved; Gyongxe. What a brilliantly realized culture rich in history and spirituality. The Boy King - very believable and poignant. The little gods - why weren't they used more and introduced sooner? Evvy's torture scene - obviously not enjoyable but believable, horrible and sensitively handled.
In two minds about whether we needed to know more about Rosethorn's love life. It was healthily described and Briar's reactions were believable, but it didn't advance the plot. More pining over Lark would have made more sense. Also the Yangjiang sequence was off balance - too rushed and not detailed enough. Threads start and then go no where - Briar's annoyance at Evvy reverting to a daughter of Yanjing for a start.
Don't get me wrong; I will read and reread this book. But it wasn't what it should have been. I would have rather burned with impatience for another two years waiting and got the book it should have been. I know I complain when Ms Pierce's books get put back publication date wise. I can't help it.
I am sure that Tamora Pierce won't read this but if by any chance she does, I've loved and reread all if your book to faint, tissue thin ghosts of themselves. Please don't let your editors make you forget the following of fans you have that are in their thirties now. I've bought your books for the last 22yrs. You can't be compared with anyone else in the genre because there's no comparison. Please stay the course in your next book. You help keep me sane!