Disclaimer: I am acquainted with the author. Unfortunately, I’ve been acquainted with the author for a dozen years. That could mean I’ll be nice. Or… it could mean I’ll be as honest about her work as I would be with an irritating cousin or sibling. But I thought I would get that out of the way.
Originally I intended this review to encompass my thoughts on the third book in The Agartes Epilogues, Sapphire’s Flight. But Sapphire’s Flight isn’t a standalone book, and the more I attempted to gather my thoughts on it, the more I realized it would be equivalent to reviewing only the last third of a book without any mention of the previous chapters.
So, let’s begin with the description from the book itself:
The battle at Shi-uin has left scars. The rise of Gorrhen yn Garr to power seems unstoppable. As nations fall, the lines between love and duty become blurred and Kefier, Sume, and Enosh must learn to live with the choices they have made.
That’s not a lot to go on, but then once we reach this point in the story, not a lot can be said without a giant SPOILER tag attaching itself to everything.
All the way back in Jaeth’s Eye, the first book of the trilogy, we’re introduced to our three main MAIN characters (there are other characters who become almost-main characters – it’s a fairly large cast – but we’ll stick with these three for the moment) Kefier, Sume, and Enosh. The former two are not the type who want to get into your usual fantasy shenanigans. So there’s no staring off at a binary sunset wondering how cool it would be to find out you’re heir to some spiffy
Jedi Agan magic. They just want to make it through the typical day to day.
A great deal of what happens to our main characters over the course of the series is not important people making big decisions about epic things and wars and sword fights and dragons. Those things are there. They happen, but they happen off-screen for the most part. A lot of what we see is the after-effects of those decisions, a small band of warriors left to face off against a larger army because a Big Decision was made off-screen, and our beloved characters are abandoned and left to pick up the pieces.
Now, so far, I’ve been rather vague about things, and that’s on purpose. There are quite a number of reveals in this series, especially in the final book, so I’m treading carefully so as not to SPOILER anything.
So let’s try to sum up a few things and do some thought-gathering: This series tries to bite off a lot. There is a tremendous amount of history and world-building on display, but not to the point that I was bored to tears by it. Much of it is deftly woven into the story (one moment that stands out is when a bit of world-building is presented in bedtime story form, which meant I didn’t even realize I’d just seen Villoso’s world expand a little more until later, so smoothly was it presented.)
There is a mix of viewpoints, interludes, and prologues, which are all important. When I first read Jaeth’s Eye, I will confess that I was confused at moments because it seemed like there was so much to keep track of, along with a few pacing issues, but as I moved through the book, it all seemed to contract on itself, pulling the various threads together, until I suddenly hit the pay-off and realized just how detailed and well-constructed this world was going to be.
With each successive book, Villoso’s skills grow stronger. By the time I arrived at Sapphire’s Flight, her prose had graduated to a beautiful thing. Her characters are flawed, which means that sometimes I wanted to smack them upside the head. But it made them real, and it made me care. And made me cry in bed at one o’clock in the morning when I arrived at the end of the trilogy.
It is a solid series. It is a remarkably solid fantasy debut. I feel special because I was lucky enough to see some snippets of the early versions of this story. At its heart, it’s about its characters, caught in the machinations of an epic fantasy world that simply will not leave them be. I look forward to reading more of Villoso’s work, because I suspect she’ll only improve and enthrall more and more with each story she creates.