With its careful plotting and brilliantly developed cast of characters, it is worth every paragraph. Shannon covers both grand high fantasy themes and more down-to-earth ones, touching on everything from court intrigue and the terrifying frenzy of battle to tender domestic moments. The novel overflows with characters whose wins you’ll cheer for and whose failures you’ll mourn ... At times, her poetic prose overwhelms the senses with sumptuous detail and explosive energy. In other moments, she paints complex emotions with goosebump-inducing empathy.
This story is epic in scope, but its density is the sort that pulls you in. The biggest pull comes from the humanity displayed by the central characters, whose hearts ache for their children and their futures in a world fraught with turmoil ... The very real struggles these characters face, whether they ride dragons or bear the suffocating rules of monarchy, make this a consuming read. While some fantasy tropes feel like they've only been added to the story's surface, the pages keep turning because of the heart-wrenching reasons that characters are driven to action.
Shannon artfully builds on the world of The Priory of the Orange Tree with this masterful standalone prequel ... Shannon skillfully grounds high-stakes fantasy action in human emotion and a mature exploration of duty, bodily autonomy, identity, and motherhood.