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This is a claustrophobic seige fantasy that almost had all the pieces, but was just down slightly by the delivery. It's a little wordy in places, and the pacing is a bit uneven, though the action is good and the characters are well pitched (though some of the secondary characters are hard to parse). Certainly worth a read if the concept appeals.
Ballintyne has done an excellent job weaving the indepth, backstabbing nature of politics and of the gods in this stunning beginning of this Dark Fantasy Series. Although a battle/ siege story it does not get so wrapped up in the battle to drag the plot. The characters development and descriptions throughout help drive the mystery of the story as well as the pace. Ellaeva, the goddess of death's Battle Priestess, is in a great struggle between her need for revenge and her duty to the goddess. To make matters worse, because of her station she is always alone on a path she did not chose but was chosen for her at the age of five and this places internal struggles on her as she yearns for situations she vowed against. Her personal struggles and human side make her far more believable and like able than the cold perfect priestess of death. In the same way Lyram caught up in politics due to his position by birth, and in a state of rage due to evil men and the horrific death of his wife, shows his faults and mistakes in his emotions, grief, and rage, helping the reader form a bond with him and a need for vengeance, even through his flaws. Ballintyne's character development is not the only thing that hooked me in this read. Her detailed descriptions of the fights with the army and the monsters, the setting like the castle, the enemies and my favorite the weapons and clothes, specifically the kilts, made the story come alive. I also enjoyed the authors ability to toy with the plot and characters, setting up the interest to not only read on but an urge to get my hands on the next book . The big reveal was not expected at all and because I was so intrigued when it happened it worked to only fuel more questions and interest in the next book. I am not often surprised but this great adventure did just that.