Once again, I have to thank NetGalley for bringing this gem to my attention. But then, it’s an Angry Robot book and they are always worth another look…
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest. Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?
So, this is a portal story – one of the staples of speculative fiction. What stands out for me in this offering, is Meadows’ strong, unvarnished approach to her worlds and her characters. No one comes away from this adventure without having made some major mistakes. No one bounces around the violence unscathed and brave, clever characters who try to do the right thing can also be mean-minded, sarcastic and over-controlling. The other striking aspect to this tale is that the women have real agency over their lives and the lives of others – which forcibly brings home just how limited most women are in the average medieval fantasy adventure. Unless you are young and peculiarly singled out by some divine/familial/genetic destiny, of course. And while there is a nod to that trope here, it comes with a twist…
Meadows also ensures the violence has real consequences – people get hurt. And while there are magical healing spells, the damage doesn’t take away scarring or grow back limbs, or remove the trauma. I’m conscious that this sounds like some really grimdark, bleak trudge – and it’s nothing of the sort. The action kicks off rapidly with an engaging, sympathetic young protagonist, who finds herself unexpectedly dropped in the middle of another world. There is plenty of sharp humour as egos clash, along with lots of excitement and adventure. I stayed awake into the early morning to discover what would happen next to Saffron, Gwen and young Zech.
The worldbuilding is deftly done through the characterisation and we get a sense of Saffron’s bewilderment as she grapples with different food, different clothing and different standards of hygiene. There are layers in this world that are uncovered as the incipient conflict forces old enemies to band together in the face of the threat that Leoden poses. I like him as an antagonist – he is personable, charming and completely amoral. The women are furious that they were so completely taken in by him and Gwen feels guilty and ashamed.
And then comes the final act – the defining climax that wraps up this tale and moves the story along for the next book in the series to resume… I was stunned at the sudden shift in the tale. I certainly wasn’t expecting THAT. Or the heartbreaking poignancy surrounding Saffron’s storyline that had me blinking back tears – and I don’t cry often over books.
If you enjoy well-written, character driven fantasy with strong women featuring throughout, a cracking plot and beautifully constructed plot, then go looking for this book. I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel.
This sounds good and that cover sure is enchanting. I like the idea of no love triangle too. Just strong characters, well written:)
I couldn’t get into this one. Glad ye liked it though. I love Angry Robot Books.
x The Captain
Yes… it certainly ticked all my boxes. It would be a dull old world if we all loved the same books, though, wouldn’t it?
Hmmmm… This is the first I’ve heard about An Accident of Stars, and it sounds pretty interesting. I’ll have to see if it’s coming out here in the US anytime soon. Great review, btw!
This one comes with a STRONG recommendation. I think you’d really like this one.
One place for paperbacks: The Book Depository.
They ship worldwide for free (no matter how many books you order; they also have discounts often) and you don’t have to wait for the US release:
(Just don’t blame me if you spend all your money there!)
*facepalm* I didn’t even think of The Book Depository. That’s the site I’ve used for the book giveaways at my site, so I know it well. I just… blanked on it at the time, I guess. *lol*
It means you’re not using it often enough! (just kidding 😀 )
O wow, this one is definitely a must read. Thank you for the review. 🙂
Oh, yes please – do get it! I’d love to know what you think of it:))
I’ll try to remember and come back to this post. The problem is, that my Goodreads “Want to Read” list already has over 50 books on it, and it doesn’t even cover what I have on my bookshelf.
I’m soooooo behind with my reading… 😦
Oh I know THAT feeling!
I finally got to the book, so I’m reporting back as per my tradition.
It’s the first book I decided to DNF in a loooong time. It’s sad, because I LOVED some of the aspects of the book (interesting concept for the world’s society and politics in particular), but the dull and passive main character, info-dump full of preaching, and “characters doing stupid things to further the plot” left me so tired and disinterested.
I elaborated a little bit more on Goodreads, if you’re curious about my complaints.
I understand your concerns – I suppose because I read so much YA, I don’t find those issues quite so graunching. I’m sorry this one was a bust for you and I hope you soon find another book you really love:))
If I knew it was YA, I’d steer away from it (and everyone would be happy 😉 ), but it was advertised as “adult” (it seems that mostly because of the certain grueling scene at the fountain) – I found a few more reviewers having a problem with this too. I guess it was the case of “I ordered a pizza and they brought me a tomato quiche” ;).