Another book that was on my radar because everything I’d heard about it was amazing. I couldn’t help myself, and as soon as I got myself an audible credit, it went directly at this audiobook!
I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…
Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.
But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.
Wooow what a great listen this one was!
This is the story of Jovan and Kalina, who are siblings and nobles who have quite close ties to the Chancellor and his heir. Because while Jovan and Tain, the Chancellor’s Heir are best friends, their relationship is rather more than that. Jovan is a proofer. This means that he’s a master of poisons, and he tastes everything that Tain eats first, just like Jovan’s uncle does for the Chancellor.
Kalina, Jovan’s older sister, started training for this, but ultimately, her body has a malady that made it so she was too weak to handle the poisons involved. So Kalina was trained in other arts that helped her keep the Chancellor’s family safe.
Suddenly, the Chancellor and Jovan and Kalina’s uncle are both poisoned by an unidentifiable substance, and not long after they succumb to it, an army masses outside the city and puts it under siege. They call the nobles of the city spirit killers and refuse to negotiate or back down.
So the hunt is on to find out who poisoned the chancellor and why, and what it has to do with this army besieging the city.
Jovan and Kalina, who tell this story in alternating first person views, were both characters that I rooted for, and very very interesting to me. Interesting in that both characters are disabled in their own way, one physically and the other mentally, but they are never portrayed as less than anyone else because of their illnesses. Kalina suffers a lifelong malady that makes her body weaker than the average woman her age, and while she does what she can to keep herself as fit as she can be, there are times when she is exhausted, sore, and just physically weak. Jovan I could relate a little better to, as he suffers from some pretty legit anxiety and OCD. It will affect him from time to time, especially if unexpected or dangerous things are happening, which they often do, or if he is stressed, which the events of this book definitely make him. I can relate, and I found that the anxieties were definitely realistically portrayed. They certainly poked at mine a little, though not enough to make listening problematic (alas, that has happened before with other books). Each sibling worries over the other because of these ailments, and the relationship between them was really quite sweet at times. The best part though, is that neither character lets their disabilities hinder them from being really awesome. Jovan at the very least actually uses his anxiety to his advantage at least once, which was really cool.
This one played out as a fantasy murder mystery, which was awesome, because I do like a good mystery in my fantasy from time to time. I really quite enjoyed trying to figure out who the baddie was, and found myself completely in the dark about it throughout the entire thing, which was great. It makes twists and turns that threw me off the scent, and revealed clues that seemed important that turned out to be unimportant and vice versa. By the end of this book, I had suspected pretty much everyone except Jovan and Kalina, and I mean everyone, lol. The last few hours of this thing were a total thrillride of wondering what was going to happen and if things that happened were really for realsies happening. My feeeeeels!
The narration for this audiobook was fantastic. Dan Morgan, who narrated Jovan’s chapters, and Rosa Coduri, who narrated Kalina’s both brought their respective characters to life for me, especially Kalina. I would turn this book on at work and fall into this world as they told the story, and suddenly it was time to go home. Audiobooks that can do that to a work day are certainly something special. 🙂
All told, I really enjoyed this one quite a lot! It was a really fantastically written debut, and both kept me in the dark right up to the reveal, and just… gave me all the feels. I look forward to more from Sam Hawke in the future! Can’t wait to see what happens next! 5/5 stars! 🙂