A confident series opener and debut.
The blurb: Rifarne is a country opposed to magic. When its people demand harsh action, King Aeric sees himself with no other choice but to outlaw those with the gift. Rachael, a homeless orphan with the rare gift of a Seer, soon finds herself with visions of her own violent death. When her escape goes wrong and she ends up in the clutches of a vicious Mist Woman lusting for her blood, she finds she is the only person to stop the war against people like her – and assassinating the King to become Queen to a people who once wanted her dead may well be the only way to do just that.
Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Rise of the Sparrows to read in return for an honest review.
The story in Rise of the Sparrows is told through various character viewpoints using a consistent close third-person voice. The main point of view is that of Rachael, the seventeen-year-old protagonist.
Many of you will be pleased to hear that, Rise of the Sparrows is refreshingly free of the front-and-centre romance (and therefore the dreaded love triangle) which now seems almost obligatory for this genre when the main character is a teenage girl. There are hints at a relationship which could develop further in future installments, but the heroine’s thoughts are mercifully free of worrying about what she looks like and what it would be like to kiss boys. Also, though Rachael has visions which show her the future, that’s the extent of her “special” abilities. It was nice to have a female lead who wasn’t a ready-made, all-conquering bad-ass. Which isn’t to say Rachael isn’t a fighter, but the lethal magic powers and superior fighting skills belong to secondary characters. Meanwhile, Rachael makes use of her instincts and street-smarts to try to stay out of trouble.
The plot is well-handled. You always know you’re in safe hands when a fantasy novel has a map at the front – it shows the author has thought through the mechanics of getting from A to B. And it’s not shy about being sufficiently grim when necessary, as the dark and bloody prologue makes clear from the get-go.
The characters are well-drawn and vivid, although I would have liked more information about the world they lived in. I wanted to know more about Rifarne and its neighbouring countries, its history, its monarchy, its politics and how our characters slotted into this panorama. Of course, I imagine this is my impatience and more will be revealed in the next parts of the series. Also, I understand sometimes you have to sacrifice exposition to keep the story moving forward. But a few times while reading I felt like I was looking at a picture in which the foreground was in sharp focus and filled with wonderful detail while the background was fuzzy.
The highlight of the book for me was its action sequences, perhaps precisely because these require immediacy rather than background info. One extended escape/chase sequence in particular was incredibly gripping (sorry to be vague… trying to avoid spoilers!).
Overall: if you enjoy fantasy fiction and are looking for a good story which bucks many of the recent trends in the genre, I urge you to pick up Rise of the Sparrows.
And, in case you missed it, Sarina dropped by recently to chat about Rise of the Sparrows, her writing and herself! Check it out 🙂
Claire Huston / Art and Soul