The Velshaan are divine rulers of the desert, raised above the rest of humankind by their magical powers. Magical powers that have been lost since the last great civil war, when Velshaan fought Velshaan and the magical battles reshaped the land. The ruling family believes there is a way back to that power, and they’ll scheme and betray to get it. Syrina, princess and younger sister to Raskah, has been persuaded to marry him, because the legends say the magic only manifests in the union of two siblings. Yet, the brother she once loved has become terrifying and hateful (reader’s warning: explicitly violent scenes explain how). For her refusal to accept her family’s plans for her, she has been sent to the dreaded salt mines, where troublemakers are sent to fade into obscurity, drudgery, and starvation. Syrina, stronger than she knows, begins to forge alliances at the salt mines, while she studies furiously to learn how to access the power of the Velshaan. In fact, she is racing against her brother, who is using his own methods to try to access that same power. When she realizes he is coming for her, she throws her decaying family loyalty away and starts off on a new course that will build her character in ways she never imagined.
About halfway, the pacing slows as the focal point becomes one specific piece of palace intrigue. It was well worth it to power through that section, because the action picks up and keeps rolling until the last page, which sets up events for a sequel.
While the main storyline follows Syrina’s character growth and adventures, the narration is split between her and other key players, offering glimpses of royal schemes and treason, secondary characters’ motivations, and magical spirits whose destinies give them a role in the events. All the narrations together show a multifaceted, magical world with meaningful history that impacts the current events. Each character is complex, with motives that fit their actions (or vice versa). Each decision is weighty, and many have moral components, when independence, defiance, and change could bring about war that would devastate people, but is necessary to make the world a better place.
A thoroughly engaging and well-written novel about desert adventure, politics, and a young woman finding her way among difficult futures, this book kept me turning page after page, and I really can’t wait for the continuation of Syrina’s story.
*Advance copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Throne of Glass features a young woman protagonist with a secret past who has been raised as an assassin. While her stay in the salt mines of Endovier is more prologue to the story than actual story itself, readers will find many similarities between these two novels, including betrayal, palace intrigue, and heroines with fighting abilities.
Another magical adventure that features deserts is The Desert of Souls, which has an Arabic flavor to it.