This one came to my attention in an email from a publicist – and when I read the blurb for it, I thought it would definitely be up my alley. And an audiobook to boot! I can listen to it at work! Yaaaaay!
So this review is based on a review copy of the audiobook, and thank you to the author and publicist for that review copy.
Break the shackles of the mind.
Leo is a boy grieving his twin. Nea is a girl living as a boy to escape her past. Two slaves, carrying the scars of abuse. They form a connection, only to be split apart when their ship arrives in a mysterious and fragmented land, cut off from the rest of the world.
Leo becomes apprentice to a vagabond swordsman and together the two set out to find a stolen weapon locked away in a catacomb city. But what is his new teacher hiding? Tormented by a crippling injury and an anxious heart, Leo must find the strength within himself to keep going despite all that he has lost.
Meanwhile, Nea is conscripted by the Captain of the Royal Guard, who ropes her into the search for a group of men hunting a boy matching Leo’s description. But to Nea’s dismay, the Captain is a woman and Nea must fight past her hateful and damaged mind if she ever hopes to earn her freedom.
When a former child soldier threatens to spark a revolution, Leo and Nea will choose sides. Will they fight to save this cruel land, or punish it? To find the answer, they must confront the horror of the past and fight for the greatest freedom of all, freedom from the fear that rules their hearts.
This story follows two characters, Leo and Nea, who are teenagers both with traumatic pasts. Leo is an escaped slave who finds himself apprenticed to a Vagabond, the ‘protectors of the land’. They go off in search of a lost weapon. Nea is also an escaped slave, a girl who has disguised herself as a boy and ends up going on an adventure with Cain, the famous Captain of the Royal Guard. They’re looking for Leo, or at least the group of men who are hunting for him. Then the shenanigans really start, like they do.
I liked Leo a lot as a character, and he was easy to cheer for. Even more, I liked Seiyariu, the vagabond he travels with. Seiyariu is full of all kinds of secrets that I wanted to learn more about as the book went on, which was right up my alley. To a lesser extent, I liked Nea and Cain. Nea is quite prejudiced against women, and so it takes her a long time to warm up to Cain, but as they travel and Nea sees what Cain is capable of, she comes to idolize her, a little.
Nea talks to herself in her head a lot. Leo does too, but not nearly as much. Leo is the sort of character that asks questions to prompt worldbuilding answers, but I didn’t find this as noticeably irritating as Nea’s constant self-deprecating inner monologue. There is a reason that she is so self-deprecating, and it’s understandable in the context of the book, I just wish that it was presented differently. It doesn’t help that in the audiobook, an effect is added to these bits, which makes them super noticeable.
This one took me a while to really get into. It starts off rather slow, and the timeline between the two characters also seems to run at different rates in the beginning which took a little getting used to. The timeline of events seemed skewed between Nea and Leo, and it was a little confusing. However, the second half of the story, especially when Leo and Nea come together again, was much more immersive and flowed really well. I enjoyed the second half much more than the first. It gets pretty emotional nearer to the end, which had me a little misty-eyed after so many hours of bonding with the characters. Many of these characters have pasts full of abuse, sexual abuse, thoughts of/attempts at suicide, and other unpleasantness. The unpleasantness was fairly vague, but still, if these sorts of things are problematic for you, proceed with caution.
As an audiobook, I thought it was very well done. It is narrated by Vic Mignogna, which admittedly was part of the thing that intrigued me about it. I don’t always watch my anime dubbed, but FMA was one of the ones that I watched (and enjoyed) both dubbed and subbed, and so I was interested to see what this narration would be like. Admittedly, it does listen like ‘Edward Elric tells you a story’ from time to time, so that was alright. ^_^
All told, I liked this one and found it entertaining, if a little slow at times, in the beginning, but I thought that the last half made up for it. It was a good book for putting on and getting some work done. I’d recommend this one to people who like a coming of age story, or a master-and-apprentice story. 3.5/5 stars!~