In this brand new series from the author of the Clockwork Empire series, a hopeless outcast must answer Death's call and embark on an epic adventure... Although Danr's mother was human, his father was one of the hated Stane, a troll from the mountains. Now Danr has nothing to look forward to but a life of disapproval and mistrust, answering to "Trollboy" and condemned to hard labor on a farm. Until, without warning, strange creatures come down from the mountains to attack the village. Spirits walk the land, terrifying the living. Trolls creep out from under the mountain, provoking war with the elves. And Death herself calls upon Danr to set things right. At Death's insistence, Danr heads out to find the Iron Axe, the weapon that sundered the continent a thousand years ago. Together with unlikely companions, Danr will brave fantastic and dangerous creatures to find a weapon that could save the world - or destroy it.
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Because of the lack of hype around this book, I had no expectation going into this book. So it was quite a surprise when I ended up really liking this book.
The book starts off a little rough but evens out as you move forward. It took me a while to get into it because, although I expected this to be an Adult fantasy novel, I didn’t expect it to be as gritty as something similar to ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin. The fantasy world seems more like a dystopian since there isn’t much order or governing going on and where slavery and rape isn’t as big of an issue for the population as I would think it would be. But thankfully, the focus shifts more to Danr’s story/quest forward and less on the cruelty of the world as you get further into the story.
But despite the fact that Danr is the main protagonist of the story, half troll half human, I actually liked Aisa—and to a greater extent, even Talfi—more than any other character. Considering she is a sex slave and constantly abused by her master and his wife, she is a very strong female protagonist. She is at times sassy, sharp, and loyal to the bone towards someone who looks after her. Despite the fact that her father sold her into slavery, at one point in the book, she even comes to let that past go. For someone who bares physical scars of rape and abuse, covers herself in heavy clothing so the world can’t see, I can imagine that forgiving the man who became the reason for it all wasn’t an easy feat. She is incredibly strong and I loved her for that. Talfi, on the other hand, is just as lovable a sidekick as one would want. Although there isn’t much humor in this book, Talfi’s trustworthy attitude contrasting against Aisa’s dark sorrows and Danr’s self-deprecating musings was a refreshing change at times.
Danr, as good a character as he was, was sometimes a bit too annoying. Not for any particular reason honestly, simply because of this constant good vs evil fight he has with himself. I sympathized with him, because of the way he has been treated all his life, but often I just wished he would get over the notion that everyone thinks he is a monster and move on with life. In retrospect, he did have the potential to be a bad person (as do we all) but he never lets out the “monster” within him so I really felt bad that he wasted so much time scolding himself over nothing.
There is a bit of confusion in terms of what is the targeted audience for this book. In reminded me slightly of ‘The Final Empire’ by Brandon Sanderson because of this. The world itself definitely deals with a lot of adult issues but because the main characters are quite young, sometimes their narratives can make feel as if you are reading a young adult novel. Then something awful would happen, or someone would swear (some of the swear words seemed out of place at times actually) and suddenly, I am snapped out of the misunderstanding that this is not a young adult novel.
Overall though, I was more than satisfied with numbers of twists and turns this story takes, as well as the fantastically neat ending. It was a little too neat perhaps, in terms of what happens with Talfi, but because I like him so much…I don’t really care. The mixture of orcs, humans, elves, etc. also never felt as overwhelming as I thought it might—everything felt as if it belonged in the story. If there is a second book in this series, I am certainly looking forward to it!
Disclaimer: An audiobook copy of this book was provided by Audible in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any exterior motives.