I received a hard copy of this book in my Swancon bag, and have just read it in my effort to read all of the Hugo-nominated works before I have to actually vote in the Hugos. I’d heard a lot about the book and therefore had high expectations, although without the time incentive I don’t think I would have read it any time soon.
Yeine is a half-breed, basically; her mother, of the ruling tribe? clan? family? ran away with and married her father, a noble of a very minor and backwater clan, much to the disgust of her own father, the not-quite-ruler of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Now, though, Yeine has been summoned to Sky – the centre of the world – after her mother’s death, and discovers that she has the dubious honour of being named as a potential heir to the throne. Naturally things are not going to proceed easily for her, not least because Sky is a weird weird place: the humans are a scheming, devious, unpleasant lot in general, and then you add in imprisoned gods who still have a remarkable amount of power….
I did enjoy the book, overall; not as much as I had hoped, but more than I feared. There were some engaging and clever plot twists, which made me glad I read properly rather than skimming – which I considered doing at about the 1/3 mark. Some of the characters developed nicely, particularly T’vril and Viraine, and some of the gods too. The backstory, about the God’s War, was nicely woven in – and the creation story was beautifully told with some neat original aspects – although overall it wasn’t that original.
However, I have not become a huge fan, and probably won’t bother with the rest of the series. Yeine did not engage me nearly enough to want to find out more about her character and story; I didn’t feel like she developed enough over this book, and the ways in which she did change were to become, largely, more unpleasant. And in terms of the story – actually I think that this works really, really well as a stand-alone. I was really surprised by the end because it feels like just that: a genuine end, a conclusion that makes sense and wraps up a lot of issues. Of course it left questions, but so do the conclusions of a lot of trilogies. So for me, this will almost certainly stay as a standalone; one that I enjoyed but that hasn’t had a huge impact on me.