I’d read and reviewed the second book in the series, The Fettered Flame, and enjoyed it sufficiently to want to go back and read the first book – not always something I bother to do. Would I enjoy it as much, given that I largely know the outcome of most of the plotpoints?
Struggling to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder, Cor comes across a mystery much deeper—a secret society who predicted that someday their world would be devastated. That time is now. In a world where women are not allowed to read, live alone, or pursue knowledge Cor presses forward, discovering a new magic and the power to wield it. A world away, Atesh works in the Imperial Labs, devoting his study to the turmoil destroying his home and endangering dragonkind. Instead he discovers a long-hidden truth. Humans are real.
One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this world is its richness and sheer quirky difference. I’m used to worlds being endangered by maniacal gods/powerful mages/artefacts – I can’t recall another world risking extinction because the child of a powerful being accidentally touched it… However, any impulse to burst out laughing is steadily eroded as we become engrossed in the lives of our protagonists on the sundered worlds. Bell handles the epic nature of her narrative really effectively, as both societies – stressed by the environmental upheaval – start to fall apart.
As well as providing an interesting, unusual take on the nature of the overwhelming disaster, Bell also gives us an insight into two uncomfortably familiar repressive societies as they seek to expunge any differences or political opposition. In the human world, women aren’t permitted to read or enter public life in any sphere, and although people travel from different parts of the planet, anyone with different colouring is treated with suspicion and hostility. Dragonkind is no better – a ruler who has been on the throne far too long is determined to continue to rule through whatever means she can. Her paranoia is creating an increasingly harsh regime where the majority are too cowed to rise up and protest. I don’t want you to go away with the idea that this is some political polemic, however. Bell is far too dedicated to the story to break her narrative with undue hand-wringing over the sorry state of our governing systems, but I liked the fact it is there.
What I mainly gained from reading this first book was a greater understanding of the characters, in particular Cor’s backstory and why she is such a cagey character. There is also an intriguing magical element in this story, which again is unique and I very much enjoyed watching it develop as Cor fumbles towards coping with this ability. The other unfolding story is that of the dragons, though I did feel Atesh’s main decision near the end of book was somewhat sudden and, given his ties to his family, was not wholly convincing. I’ll forgive Bell this slight inconsistency, however as I loved Zee, the twitchy ruler and her uncomfortable relationship with the brutal General Dronna.
Overall, the worldbuilding is excellent and as I continued reading, I was aware of not wanting the book to finish too soon as I was enjoying the unfolding drama in this detailed, troubled world. I’ll definitely be looking out for the last book in the series, which is highly recommended – though to get the best out of it, do please read The Banished Craft and The Fettered Flame in the right order.
Despite acquiring an advanced readers’ arc from the publishers via NetGalley, I can confirm my review is an honest, unbiased opinion of The Banished Craft.