Blurb (from Amazon.co.uk)
When shy and retiring Llandry Sanfaer discovers a mesmerising new gemstone, she suddenly becomes the most famous jeweller across the Seven Realms. Demand for the coveted stone escalates fast; when people begin dying for it, Llandry finds that she herself has become a target.
Lady Evastany Glostrum has her life in pristine order. Prestigious, powerful and wealthy, she is on the verge of crowning her successes with the perfect marriage. But when her closest friend is murdered for the jewellery she wears, Eva is drawn into the mystery surrounding the curious “istore” gem.
The emergence of the stone is causing chaos across the Seven. Gates between the worlds are opening at will, pulling hordes of creatures through from the shadowy Lower Realm and the glittering Uppers. As Eva works to discover the culprit behind the spreading disorder, Llandry must learn the truth about her precious istore stone – before she herself becomes a victim.
Review (full review posted on Goodreads.com)
Charlotte has an obvious gift for beautiful prose and many a time I caught myself drooling over her wonderfully constructed sentences. Her word choices are elegant. She doesn’t just choose simple words to get the point across, either, but words that are musical and almost seem to jump off the page. Harmonious, that’s what it is. But I didn’t have to crack open my dictionary to discover the meaning of any of the words. It was just nice clean beautiful prose, and ten times better than a lot of legacy books out there. Both the voice and the style have been developed beautifully and executed better than I expected.
Her characterisations are very fine and three dimensional. Often I could feel Eva’s susceptibility to the cold and Llandry’s social anxiety, which were both large parts of the character identification. They even had different voices, which is rare to find in indie fiction. That’s why this book is a gem, people! I loved the way Eva dealt with people and could feel the pressure on her to succeed and be seen to be successful. And there are much worse things than being in Llandry’s head as she suffers and deals with her social anxiety.
I would have liked to know how Llandry developed from the fearless child into the anxious wreck she is as an adult, but Draykon has a sequel, Lokant, and I hope we’ll find out there.
Sigwide was so adorably cute. Charlotte clearly has a gift for writing non-anthropomorphised fantasy animals. I loved reading about him: his reactions all seemed very real and he was just so cute! Where can I get an orting?
The worldbuilding was rather lovely. I’m not sure I have a firm grasp on everything, because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before. A lot of the clearly non-human sentient people were called humans, even when they had wings, for example, so I’m still trying to come to terms with that. I don’t fully understand why there needed to be the land and Cloak divide between the Daylanders and the Darklanders but I imagine it came about as the people grew more aware that they could manipulate their own environment, much like the benefits of electricity for us real-world humans. After all, if you’re a nocturnal creature, what could be better than night all the time? And if you have sorcerers able to do that sort of thing, why not give yourself a natural advantage?
The only thing I will mention that was not perfect (besides the occasional typo – not more so than any legacy published novel, so it’s not an issue, and the ever so slight ‘who said that?’ moment when it came to dialogue) is the fight scenes. They seemed not as perfect as the rest of the prose. Polished, yes, and lovingly written, that much is obvious. It doesn’t in any way let the novel down, but after growing accustomed to Charlotte’s high standard prose, her descriptions which never became overwhelming and were just enough to build the world in my head, her wonderful characterisations and the very real relationships between the characters, the fight scenes by comparison (and remember, everything else was top-notch) seemed a little weak, a little off in pace. Almost like a tuba solo in the middle of a glorious symphony. Perhaps Charlotte is not comfortable writing violence, or not as practiced as her gorgeous political banter, high societal manners, and worldbuilding that I enjoyed reading about so much.
That being said, I need to reiterate that the fight scenes were still of a higher quality than I’ve read in legacy books. They just don’t seem to match the rest of the novel in its perfection.
As for the plot: well, she wasn’t kidding when she billed it as a fantasy mystery. After the appropriate amount of building questions, the revelations were revealed at just the right time. I thought the plot was going one way and it ended up going another way. I also have a suspicious mind so I kept expecting a certain character who shall not be named to be a betrayer, the sort of ‘Ha ha ha, I’ve been playing with you all along’ type thing, but that didn’t happen. The novel seems quite innocent in that regard. Almost everything was neatly wrapped up at the end, with just enough left unanswered to make a sequel appealing.
It’s not a YA book, but it’s a clean read and because of Llandry’s not-quite-grown-up attitude it could be marketed so. I believe a lot of young people would be able to relate to Llandry’s need for independence and her overbearing and overprotective parents wanting to keep her safe.
I’m really looking forward to Lokant, and the third book, Orlind, which was recently released.