E-book, 568 Pages
By: L.L. MacRae
Since the cat is out of the bag now, I read this one for SPFBO 7 and it is one of our semi-finalists for the competition. However, this is my personal review and my rating and does not reflect the final competition rating!
I was seeing the book getting some attention before the competition started and so I was excited when I got to read it too. I initially thought it was the author’s debut but apparently MacRae has many other books under another pen name! I initially thought the cover was good but when I saw the cover of The Citrine Key, I had more appreciation for this cover as they follow the same theme and complement each other!
The writing is very smooth and easy to follow, It shows that the author has experience and it was the reason which made me dig around to see if it was really a debut or not. The book is thick -568 Pages according to GR- but I did not feel that while reading because it was an enjoyable read. The story is told through multiple POVs but uses the third person POV which was a good choice as it prevented mixing the voices of the characters together! Also a small detail I liked was the title of the chapters, I love when authors do that.
There are many characters in the book and as mentioned above we move between them. Fenn awakes on an island not remembering anything and is quickly provided help by Calidra and Jisyel. I think it was smart using the memory loss trope to explain the world to the readers. Calidra has problems of her own specially when it comes to her family, her father dies at the beginning of the book, her sister has disappeared many years ago and her relation with her mother is not the best which makes her character understandable, I mean she’s still a good person and we can see that all the time but let’s say that her circumstances made her a tough person! Jisyel is kind of the opposite because she is very trusting and always see the good in people. She is cursed by one of the dragons and doesn’t have feelings which was intersting! We also have the POV of the Inquisitor Torsten who works for the queen and is kind of morally grey! I really enjoyed his chapters. Apollo is introduced later but he also was one of my favorite characters.
I should also say that this book has Dragons!! And the funny thing is that they were there and they were unique and very intriguing. They are like Gods/ Spirits each in charge of something different and they can both bless or curse people. After many big titles with Dragons in their titles and covers failed to deliver the dragons, I thought this was a very nice surprise as I thought it would be the same here.
The world-building and magic systems were interesting too, I think they have potential and we haven’t seen the best part of them yet but it is only book one so I hope the rest of the series does meet these expectations. The pacing is best at the end because it was addicting and hard to put down! My only criticism is that somewhere in the middle, I thought the story slowed down and I was just a tiny bit starting to get bored but that was soon fixed and the story took off again!
The Citrine Key: You probably know I am not the biggest fan of novellas but this was pretty good. I really liked Apollo as mentioned earlier so I had to read the novella when I knew it was his story. I am glad I read it after the first book because it was more enjoyable that way. Part of me think it should have been integrated into the main story because it provided answers to some of the questions I had, I don’t know if it is really important to the rest of the series but I know it provides more context and depth to the story.
Summary: I really enjoyed the story and more than once I thought the author made smart choices! The writing is professional and smooth, the characters were three dimensional and I did care about them. The world-building and magic both have potential and the pacing is mostly good. For the criticism part, I wanted a faster pacing somewhere in the middle and I had some higher expectations of some parts! Overall, a very satisfying read and deserves a solid 4 stars rating!