Publisher: Imburleigh Book Company
Publication Date: 18/02/2021
Length: 662 pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy | Mystery | LGBTQIA+
CW: drug addiction, miscarriage, prisoner abuse, child abuse, graphic depictions of death
Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?GoodReads
Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.
Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?
Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
I had seen this novel pop up a few times on Twitter and I was very intrigued by the premise! I was a little daunted at first by the length of the novel, especially with how heavy the plot sounded, however I was very surprised at how easily I became absorbed into this novel and how the tone of the novel was balanced.
Whilst there is a mystery surrounding the dead girl at the centre of this novel, I didn’t expect the level of detail of the political landscape of the world that Matar gave us. Personally, I love learning the political workings of societies, particularly in fantasy novels. There is a clear divide between those with ‘talents’ and those without, which results into an oppressive society where the ‘talented’ live in constant fear that they will be processed to the rift one day should they step out of line. Matar has clearly put a lot of time and thought into crafting the Dominion and it comes across in every detail which really builds this world up to be believable and somewhere that you want to explore more of. Not only is it the attention to detail to the politics of the world that brings it to life, but it is the vivid, visual, descriptions of the world too.
It isn’t just the world itself that Matar has carefully crafted, but each of the characters as well. For a 600+ page novel, we aren’t introduced to so many characters that it becomes confusing or some become unnecessary. Tashué is our central protagonist, an upstanding citizen of the Dominion who is currently serving as a ‘tinman’ for the Authority following his renowned military career. It was really interesting to me to see him develop throughout the novel, going from being known as the Captain who would blindly follow orders to beginning to open his eyes and question the world around him, particularly the Authority. There are times where you may wonder how he could have been in his position for so long and remain as naive as he is, however as you begin to learn more about him and his thinking it does make sense that he would have. I really liked seeing Tashué with the other officers of the Authority, particularly Kaz, as it was great seeing how their interactions changed as he began to.
Although the novel is primarily told from Tashué’s perspective, we also get to see chapters from Stella’s perspective, one of the ‘tainted’ (talented) cases that Tashué oversees. I adored Stella and thought she was a great character. I liked how complex she was, there was a mystery surrounding her but you could very easily forget that at times when she was just playing one of her many other roles, like mother to Ceridwen (her delightful daughter and one of my favourite child characters). Being introduced to her perspective relatively early on in the novel was great in terms of pacing too, as the reader quickly becomes more up to speed than Tashué on how unsavoury the Authority can be and how they treat the ‘tainted’. Whilst I wasn’t expecting this novel to have a romantic undercurrent throughout, I have to admit I did really enjoy the slow burn between Stella and Tashué. It didn’t feel out of place at all considering everything else that was happening in the novel.
There are many strands that weave together into the plot of this novel, but they all complement each other very well. Although to describe the novel on paper might sound as though there are at least three different stories going on in the plot, it doesn’t ever feel like that. They are all connected in intricate ways even if we aren’t immediately aware of these connections, resulting in a satisfying ‘a-ha’ moment when they become clear. What wasn’t satisfying, however, was completely forgetting that this novel is the first of the series and seeing you’re on 98% of the novel but you still have so many questions! As maddening as that can be, it is still delightful and has me incredibly excited for the sequel which is scheduled for release some time in 2022.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and became heavily invested! Matar has a talent of her own when it comes to creating an immersive world with multi-faceted characters who could all be the protagonist of a story of their own! This novel has a lot to offer and is well worth picking up, even if this isn’t your usual genre.