Narrator: Simon Vance
Publisher: Recorded Books (2016)
Length: 19 hours 24 mins
In this historical fantasy, Kay captures a beautiful tale that is part coming of age, part espionage, part love story. In a world that closely resembles Renaissance Europe, a bevy of fascinating characters captured my attention and my heart. This was such a well-balanced story, having a great mix of conflict, truth-seeking, and stumbling upon greatness.
My apologies for any misspelled names; I listened to the audio version. Pero Velarni is a painter in disgrace and he’s about to be tasked with traveling from the city-state of Seressa to the Grand Caliph of the Osmanli empire, where he is to paint the Caliph’s portrait and passively gather information, if he can. Along the way, he meets most our other main characters. There’s Danica (her dead grandfather Zadek still speaks to her) from the besieged city of Senjen. Marin Givo is a successful merchant from Dubrava. The Seressians have also tasked the disgraced lady Leonara to spy for them and she is traveling with her recently acquired husband, a physician named Yakavo Mucci. On the other side of the adventure serving the Osmanli empire is Damaz, a Jani warrior in training. The story switches often between these characters giving us a pretty good idea of the various politics and individual motivations.
Danica was my favorite character. Her city has been under attack off and on for many years and surrounding cities tend to view Senjens as pirates. However, things aren’t that simple since no cities are allowed to trade with Senjen, forcing them to steal basic supplies when they can. She’s great with a bow, carries knives, has a loyal hunting dog named Tiko, and has her grandfather constantly feeding her advice from the great beyond. She hunts for her long-lost brother Neven who she believes was taken by the Osmanli empire during one of their regular expansions. She’s young, but she had to grow up quick. She’s got her weapons skills but she’s practical too and realizes that a lone woman in the world is always going to be in a fight. It’s a good thing she has Tiko.
Pero was my second favorite character. He’s been forced into this task and he’s rather nervous about the whole thing. He is supposed to just go do the portrait painting and return with whatever passive info he was able to gather. He’s not supposed to try to be a spy because he’s totally untrained and not the right temperament for it. That’s not to say the Council or Seressa won’t be sending him with a man servant…. perhaps one that is trained in the arts of covertcy.
There’s plenty of action scenes tossed in among the inner contemplation and love interests. I can’t outright call this an adventure story because there’s too much quiet time. I can’t label it a romance because there’s also espionage, quests, and raiding. I wouldn’t want to call this novel high literature because it’s simply to enjoyable to burden it with such a tag. In short, it is simply a well-rounded story with plenty to love about it. And, indeed, I did love this story.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox.
Narration: Simon Vance has never let me down in his narration and he does a beautiful job with this book as well. I especially liked his voice for the dead yet grumpy Zadek. He used various real-world accents which added to the flavor of the book.
What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; an intricate story; Danica; the dead Zadek; Pero in the Osmanli court; Leonora and her unexpected destiny; great narration.
What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.
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