Aranya by Marc Secchia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Magic, technology and lots of humor.
Aranya is the story of a young princess who must face a terrible fate. In the Island-World, one country has been systematically taking over island countries, and now it is Aranya of Immadia's turn. Her father wisely decides to surrender rather than face the sure slaughter of his entire kingdom, but Aranya must pay the price. She becomes yet another hostage of the Sylakian Empire. Her entire life to be locked away in a tower with other royal hostages, like herself. Then again, there is the magic and dreams of a black dragon.
There are so many things I love about this story. It was easy to fall into this world, to be engrossed and absorbed by it. I loved the dirigibles, the cloudscape that separates the islands, the technology (and lack thereof), and, of course, the magic. Everything comes together so well and so naturally, even in such a large body of work.
I am a big fan of the epic fantasy genre, and I definitely feel this one counts, but unlike some in that category, this one doesn't plod on or focus too much on details. Yes, there are details and there are elements of history and political intrigue, like in any good epic fantasy, but they are sprinkled in only when needed and in efficient packages that don't detract from the action. And, yes, there is quite a lot of action. I found it incredibly difficult to put this book down, though it's size made that necessary.
I also loved the witty banter between the characters and the way relationships developed. Then again, some of the banter lost me. There were at times too many comebacks, and I didn't always realize immediately why the characters thought them funny. Most of this abated by the end of the book. I think upon another reading, I'd probably get more of the jokes. Still, what I got, I loved. I also liked the nicknames. I won't go into those for fear of spoilers.
Overall, this is epic fantasy at its finest. I think that even folks who are intimidated by long stories might find this one manageable because of its quick pace, action focus, and compelling plot line. As the first book in the series, it ends with more story left to tell, but not in a cliffhanger. I do want to read the next, but I feel like I can wait for it. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy fantasy, particularly of the epic variety. This is definitely one of my favorites this year.
I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest non-reciprocal review.
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