My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the most enjoyable fantasy novels I've read this year, and the end kept me up past bedtime. It's a common trope done very, very well. Half-breed outsider finds himself thrust into position of authority on the throne, doesn't know who to trust (with good reason). While children often fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be ruler of the world, the reality is truly horrific. No privacy, no freedom in anything from how you get dressed to how you eat your meals, no close friends, no chance to "be yourself".
What I loved about Maia's story was...Maia. He's basically a nice guy. He's not brilliant, he's not an athlete, he's not tall and good looking, he can't even dance or ride a horse. What he can do is feel, and feel deeply. His natural empathy helps him navigate through the byzantine palace regimen and politics and stands him in good stead as he find unexpected allies.
The women in the novel were also fabulous: I want to see more of Maia's betrothed, the woman picked in an arranged marriage. She's interesting and could be a good foil for him. There were older women who were more than stock crones/mommies/villainesses: Kiru, the cleric; Arbelan, the deposed Empress and others. It highlights the importance of good secondary characters in worldbuilding.
I hope there will be a sequel, even though I stayed up long past my bedtime finishing the book. Kudos to Ms. Addison on an excellent and enjoyable tale.
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