Time to get started on some finalists. I figured I’d start with the longest books. Good idea, amirite?!
A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.
Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal.
Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man.
War destroyed her family and the man she loved.
Vengeance is within her grasp.
But is she willing to pay its price?
“Aren’t you supposed to be trained for those situations?”
“For situations in which a woman with a metal arm hires me to taunt a wanted traitor responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of men? I’d like to know the madam farsighted enough.”
This is the story of Kyrra d’Aliente, who is the daughter of a nobleman in the city of Liera. The Aliente House deals in silks, and as such is one of the most powerful houses in the city. Not nearly as powerful as the Prinze though. When Kyrra has a secret affair with the heir of the Prinze House and is caught, her entire life changes, starting with the removal of her right arm. She is exiled from her house, and sent to work with the other serfs. There she meets Arsenault, a gavaro (mercenary, more or less) who works for her father, among many other things.
It’s also the story of Kyris di Nada, a gavaro who just happens to have a magical metal right arm, and a mission to kill a man and find another. Only a few people know that he isn’t really who he says he is, or that he isn’t really a he, but the Aliente name is anathema these days, so needs must.
The story is told in just the one POV, that of Kyrra, but it is told from two different timelines. We see Kyrra in the present, a skilled fighter with a metal arm, and we see her as a young girl, and come to understand how she became the person she is. At first, before I started the book, I anticipated this being confusing or irritating, but it wasn’t at all. It never left things in a spot where changing the timeline suddenly was aggravating. It also helps that Kyrra tells the past like a story, so each chapter that goes into the past starts with a bit of a warning that it’ll be a past tense chapter. The whole thing flowed well. The book is less in your face action and more of a slow burn, but it is a good simmery burn.
I really quite enjoyed this story! It is long, so alas, it’s not the sort of book I can sit down and read in one go. Not for lack of trying this time though. Though it does take things rather slow at times, it was still engaging as a whole. I thought it was very well written and the world was wonderfully and intricately built. The political House rivalries were intricately put together and easy to understand, Kyrra’s motivations were fleshed out well, and the world of the Eterean Empire was very easy to picture. This may or may not be because I imagined most of it as an Assassin’s Creed game.
Look, my imagination is nearly entirely made up of video game references. I dunno what to tell you. >.>
The characters in this novel really stood out and shined for me. I normally don’t love the sort-of spoiled young noblewoman character (whether or not she loses it all due to something or other) but Kyrra was a great character and I enjoyed her story, and the way she told it. I also really liked Arsenault, and the relationship that grew between them. A few characters that showed up a little later in the book, like Mikelo were also really fun to read about. This one had more than one character that kept me wondering of their true motivations, and that in itself kept me reading well into the wee hours of the morning.
All told, I had a great time with this book! The only thing that I had any problems with about it overall was the pacing. At times, it felt a bit on the overly slow side, and I feel like this one could be about 10-15% shorter, but overall it was never so much a problem that I set the book aside. It’s also very, very well edited. Considering what a long book it is, you can see how much time and effort went into polishing it to a metallic sheen (#notsorry). I give this one a hearty 8.5/10 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a good slow burn politically motivated novel that feel vaguely Renaissance Italy-ish. With some stabbing. I’m definitely down for more of this series!