This fantasy novel is about a group of teens living in troubling times, with flashbacks to when they were children. Flashbacks can be confusing things, and these sometimes were, but as long as I read the headings I was all right. At first I had the hardest time keeping track of all the characters, who was who, who was related to whom, and so on, and the flashbacks actually made this more confusing because the family structures change between the beginning of the flashbacks and the beginning of the story when the kids are teens. So I was griping about how the author couldn't remember who was sisters with whom, but in the end it all made sense. I wish there had been more clues about the change ahead of time because I seriously almost quit reading when I got to the seeming inconsistencies. That kind of thing can drive me crazy. But I kept reading and now I know.
The book is a slow build, with lots of time devoted to almost every character's story (stories that are pertinent to the overarching story), so by about halfway through the book I felt a connection to most of them. The world has a complex religion, which is well explained and upon which the story hinges, and the issues of corruption within the religion and the treatment of people outside the religion are central.
My complaints are simple and few. The first is that the world is supposed to be all crazy and in a physical upheaval as described in the blurb and early in the book, but then there really isn't any showing of the weirdness until quite far into the book, so that at times I forgot about it. I was told that things were weird, but I didn't see it at all, not until probably three quarters of the way through (totally a guess). So I didn't feel like I was in a world where the sun might come up in a different corner of the world, or where it might snow in the middle of summer. Also, although I had a lot of time to get to know the characters, I didn't love them. I'm not sure why--most of them weren't super unpleasant people and they were distinctive--but I got a feeling like the world was a drab place full of drab people, with the exception of one man who appears near the beginning of the book. By drab I don't mean flat, I mean gloomy, depressive, self-centered, not under their own power. I'm pretty sure this is an intentional portrayal of the world.
Later in the book there is more action. We see some new places and meet some proactive characters, mostly villains, and the main characters are spurred to start doing. A lot of weird things happen to and around them, and they have a chance to act in more interesting ways.
The ending was more of a set up than it was a real ending, but not a cliff hanger, and it points to a more exciting second book.
The editing was pretty darn good for an Indie book, cheers for that!
Language: Something that annoyed me in the story was the insertion of made up words, presented in italics. Most of them were substitutes for profanity, usually taking the name of their god in vain, which made this book almost entirely 'clean' (no complaint there). But there were other words that made no sense to me, like a substitution for 'OK' that was a gibberish word. I wish there had been some explanation of why they used italicized words. Is it another language? That wasn't specified as far as I can remember, and I don't know what language it would be.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: A little.
Diversity: One non-white character who is from another place and treated very differently by pretty much everyone except for his friends in the group. He doesn't seem to feel wronged by this treatment, which is odd to me, but rather he simply accepts that a person from his country would be treated the way he is.
Overall Message/Plot: I see some threads of a message in this, one warning the religious not to treat others badly, one warning the religious not to be controlling, and one warning people not to put too much trust in religious people. Although my faith is central to my life and the way I live it, I can't help seeing the truth in this story. In the name of religion--my religion!--people have butchered, scandalized, imprisoned, financially ruined, manipulated, controlled, hated, enslaved…I'm sure any honest person with any knowledge of history could add to the list. I hear you, Mr. Nicolai.
Find it here.
3.5 to 4 stars