I’m a bit cross with this one if I’m honest. Because I felt like I was really rooting for it to get incredibly interesting the whole way through and in the end I got about 12 pages of action before the end of the book! Maybe it’s the perils of starting a new series, there’s so much set up to be done before the bulk of the story begins, but I’ve read enough ‘first in a series’ fantasy novels to know that it can be done well and therefore it should be done well.
Twelve Families. One Throne. Welcome to the Empire of Salt.
The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.
Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.
Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made – and lost – in Darien.
So we have the classic epic fantasy multiple POV set up with six men and one woman (sigh) all of whom were supposed to be quite different but I just kept mixing them all up because I didn’t feel that they had particularly distinctive voices. The possible exceptions to this were Arthur and Nancy (given that these were a child and a woman it’s not that surprising that they were more distinctive than the sea of violent men that were the other characters).
But I hate being negative about books so let’s look to the positive. I do think this is a classic epic fantasy world clearly created by someone with an interest in historical fiction (the genre this author normally writes in). We have an older society with the addition of magic, largely based in artefacts though some can wield it in various ways. While this isn’t particularly innovative it was handled well, and the simplicity of the setting lends itself to a series as you can expand on principles later on if needs be.
Unsurprisingly, I liked the character of Nancy best, call me a cliché but I like a strong female character. I thought that the mystery surrounding her skills was handled well and that she developed well throughout the book. Arthur was also an interesting element to the story (not going to spoil that for you though).
So as I say, I think this book could have been really quite good, it just fell short in a few ways (for me, you might love it). I felt like the concept of the twelve families wasn’t expounded as much as it could have been, just to make the political system feel a bit more fleshed out, and I felt as though we jumped from calm to action really quite quickly with not much of a sense of continuity between the two. The flow was just a bit off for me which hindered my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
My rating: 3/5 stars (I liked it but I wouldn’t read it again)
Darien publishes on July 13th so if you fancy a trip to this fantasy world you can preorder now!
By the way: I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher (Penguin Uk-Michael Joseph) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Should there have been more women (spoiler-the answer is yes). Let me know in the comments below.
Can’t wait to hear from you!