Description from Goodreads:
Ostracized by society because of the birthmark that mars his face, Grillis Bloodborn has lived all of his short life in a cottage in the forest, cutting wood and tending pigs. Upon the death of his grandmother, the only family he has ever known, he sets out on a quest to find favor with the Gods for her soul. Grillis’s travels bring him to a city where a young trash-picker named Athemon has just begun to discover the power to punish the men who have made his life a hell. As fate draws the two youths together, they learn that payback comes with a price of its own. Meanwhile, in the depths of the unconquered wilderness a young mystic named Verlvik begins to experience a series of miracles and visions… and the visions lead toward Athemon.
This book was a pleasure to read. Soriano’s writing has a beautifully lyrical aspect to it. It occasionally borders on ‘purple prose’, but far more often simply engenders powerful and evocative imagery in the reader (or at least this reader). There are passages in this book that I would have loved even if completely disassociated from the strong story they were encompassed in.
As wonderful as the writing is, it was the characters that really drew me in. Grillis, Athemon and Verlvik are each marvellous in their own way. Each possesses an immense personal strength, while also displaying notable weaknesses. They balance each other in a truly meaningful way, even as they themselves are largely unaware of it. They each also managed to retain a certain childlike innocence even as they were forced to make decisions and act as adults.
Though the characters were human, pictsee and caprine there was a definite ‘we’re all the same, really’ theme to the book that could easily be read as an anti-rascism allegory. This is always nice to see when not so heavy-handed as to overshadow the story. It wasn’t here. It was just pleasant background noise.
Though it worked here, I always have a hard time engaging the flow of a story told from multiple POVs, even when consistently contained within their own chapters. I find it stutters a bit in my mind. (I’m not sure how else to describe it.) I also thought that the enemy to be overcome was a little flat. Sure, it was evil incarnate and all, but there was no sense of grey to give it any depth. While I had no trouble understanding why they needed to be defeated, I was given no real understanding of why they did what they did or how they’d become as evil as they were. They were a fairly cliché opponent. Lastly, the book is really quite violent and fairly gory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is worth noting, especially since I think it will work well as an upper YA book.
Be that as it may, I still really quite enjoyed the book and will happily pick up more of Soriano’s work in the future.