I almost could have finished this book and gave it a 2 star rating. But it is just so filled with boring scenes. There is a whole chapter describing a resurrect spell. Not the spell itself mind you, but how the character casting it is feeling.
The writing style is pleasant, easy to read. The overall plot kind of interesting, but it takes a backseat in the drama of the small and uninteresting subplots.
Every person in the fictional world of Alera commands a type of magic, related to some element. There is air, earth, water, fire, metal, wood. The use of magic represented through the Furies, a kind of “familiar” that each person must master in order to give it commands and gain access to its power. So you ask for Cyrus, the name of your air Fury, to lift you from the ground to scape from the earth powers of Brutus, another alerean's name for his Fury.
It is considered an anomaly to not command any Fury, which usually happens when the alerean reach puberty. The alereans are at war with the Marat, a race of barbarians that rely on a totemic kind of power, and affinity with beasts. These salvages believe it is cowardice to wear armor for protection, and that eating their enemies will grant them their power.
The world is ruled by the High Lords, exceptionally powerful wielders of magic, which in turn are ruled by the the First Lord, who is even stronger and capable of extraordinary feats. This is only hinted though, as they are barely mentioned in the book.
The book starts with a scene between Amara and her mentor, Fidelias. They are both Cursers for the First Lord, a position of high importance, that is never fully explained what it means. They are trying to gather information of a rebel group that intends to overthrow the First Lord, but Amara soon finds out that Fidelias is a traitor, and is working together with one or more of the High Lords to take power.
She barely escapes the betrayal of her teacher, and reports her findings to the First Lord. She is then commanded to further investigates the matter in the borders of the alerean empire, the place called Calderon.
So, this is more or less the first chapter. Everything that follows are the subplots the characters must endure in order to find out more about the threat to the First Lord.
The first subplot (1) deals with Chord, a vicious local lord that is called into a trial for the accusation of one of his sons of committing rape. Is found guilty, Kord will lose everything he has. Things get out of hand when he decides he does not need to to abide by meddling of other people into his affairs.
When Amara finds out more about the threat she came to investigate, she finds herself unable to report the problem and ask for help, because of this conflict with Kord. There is again a whole chapter describing how cruel the man really is. Since I already bored with the story, the detailing of his treatment to women felt really unnecessary and out of place. It stole the focus of the book from fantasy to a drama.
After Amara finally finds her way to seeking help, she is dismissed, because she does not have and appointment, and when she forces the matter, she is arrested (sublot 2). If I was enjoying the story that might have not mattered, but i was looking for fun and excitement, and that felt really like a bucket of cold water thrown at me.
What really killed the book for me though, was the other subplot (3), when Tavi is captured by the Marat, and instead of killing and eating him, as it is the costume of their people, they decide to give him a trial, for no apparent reason. That was a real WTF moment, that probably would have been explained until the end of the book, or maybe the next one, but that is no way to captivate me into a story.
The book has 4 main characters. Amara, Fidelias, Tavi and Ivana. Tavi is a 15 years old boy that lives in a steadhold in Calderon. He has no Fury yet, and although his family treats him well, he feels like an outcast and a freak. It is hinted that he is somehow more important than he appears.
Ivana is his aunt. She is very found of Tavi, and treats him as his son, since his parents are dead. She is a powerful water crafter. She is more present in the Cord subplot (4) when she and another woman are captured by him.
Read 64% 12:44/19:57