Synopsis: Aleks Vasin is the youngest of four brothers, each with his path mapped out. But Aleks doesn’t want to work in his father’s shop and live with his family in a village in the westernmost corner of Siberene. And when he hears his parents fretting about money, he decides to save them the cost of his keep and leave.
First he heads south – though everyone tells him not to – to Rudavin, headquarters of the kingsguard, and he signs up for the army, little knowing what brutality it entails. After only a few weeks, Aleks realizes that this garrison is full of liars and thieves; he’s signed away four years of his life to a commander who steals his money and a captain who’s already hurt Aleks’s beloved horse. This is not a noble destiny.
After a brutal beating, Aleks escapes, hoping to find safety and a new life somewhere in the north. And there, this deserter finds love, adventure, and a skyship in which he might just prove himself a hero after all – if he can evade the soldiers who seek to capture him.
Prepare for another sweeping adventure in this second book in a unique six-book series. Each book is set in a different land within the Tellus world, with repeating characters and related, nonlinear storylines that combine to create a one-of-a-kind, addictive reading experience.
Honestly, part of me wishes I didn’t have to do this review.😖 I know that sounds terrible but now that I’ve read this book and thought through what I could possibly say about it, I think I’m just going to try and keep this as short as possible.
So, I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a main character as much as I did Aleks. I usually don’t read books that focus on a male POV just because I can’t relate to the character but I don’t think that was what made me dislike his character so much, especially considering the book is told in third person. Aleks is probably the most selfish main character I have ever had the displeasure of reading about in my experience. I know this sounds harsh, and I could give many many examples but the hardest part for me was that at the end of the book it felt like his character had experienced almost no character growth. For instance *spoiler* he ran away from his family because his brothers overshadowed him and in the end he never really reconnected with his family or apologized to everyone for how much he wrecked their lives just because he felt overlooked. *
The lack of character depth didn’t end with Aleks, unfortunately. Now I’m all for chaste romances and cute handholding. And I don’t mind when love interests make mistakes or when there are misunderstandings. But Saria, Aleks’s love interest was just such an incomplete character that I couldn’t even believe them as a couple, which makes the book hard to read. Aleks acts as if Saria is the love of his life, but her actions betray otherwise several times and her naivety isn’t cute or endearing as Aleks tries to make it out it be, it’s just annoying. And the fact that Aleks claims to love her so much but tells her nothing is a ridiculous notion. I would’ve much rather seen him with Raina, who had far more personality, knew Aleks far better, treated him with more respect and acted like her own person.
Just like Raina, the secondary characters were really the only thing I enjoyed about this book. Drazan, his brother Zhora and Luka were great and I would’ve been fine with the book having more of them in it and less of Aleks and Saria, which is sad considering those two are thought to be more important. Drazan was funny, cavalier and his moments in the book were the only ones that I felt myself getting truly invested in, and his brother Zhora was just as good a character, what happened to him was such a waste. The crazy old mechanic Luka was fantastic every time he was on the page and I was sad when he stopped appearing for awhile. I would’ve been happy just reading about the secondary characters more than what was going on with Aleks.
The plot wasn’t hard to follow, but at the same time it wasn’t exciting either. And to be honest I wasn’t completely sure what the “main” plot even was. The story ended up branching off into several different avenues that it just became more of an adventure story than a story of characters who learn anything or try to overcome and defeat a specific “big bad”. Considering how much danger they kept supposedly being in, I never felt like the characters were really at risk or there was any true problems coming their way. I think this was the way everything was presented and how the narrative seemed to meander on unimportant facts and then gloss over scenes that needed to have more depth. Like *spoiler* how it was revealed Shulga had been stalking Aleks the whole time and yet even though he was a high ranking military officer he somehow couldn’t find the location of a journal Aleks didn’t conceal very well, and then Aleks proceeds to throw said journal off a cliff, thus negating the entire reason he escaped and put everyone in danger, just silly. 🙄* I was just always waiting for something MORE to happen that never did.
Overall this was just a frustrating read for me, the world felt underdeveloped, the characters lacking in depth and while I was and still am intrigued by the overarching concept I really do think that many aspects of this book would need a lot of work for me to truly enjoy it. However, some things, like Drazan and Zhora were just engaging enough to keep me interested in reading it all the way through and I do believe that there are readers out there who would enjoy this book’s particular brand of chaotic storytelling.
*I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book through NetGalley from Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review*