“From the first offering to the last, the would-be priestess is allowed fourteen days. Fourteen days for seven offerings. Not such a daunting task—not for one raised and trained in Rassambur—but an impossible one for someone, like me, who had never been in love.”
This book is a prequel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series, where we are met again with a very predominant side character, Pyrre Lakatur. Pyrre is cutthroat, badass, and a completely ruthless killer. Pyrre is also a follower of Ananshael, the God of Death, and this story is all about her trial that will or will not make her one of Ananshael’s Priestess.
But obviously the God of Death himself wouldn’t make a trial like this easy. Pyrre has fourteen days to kill seven people that fit the part of an ancient song, or she will meet her God much sooner than expected. Pyrre feels confident until she hears the line “Give to the god the one who makes your mind and body sing with love.”
Pyrre then begins to question whether she has ever truly been in love before and even if fourteen days is ever enough time to prove that she is. She can complete her trial anywhere, but she chooses to go back to the first place she ever called home, so that she can be reunited with the first and only boy she had ever felt something like love for.
“Love is like killing,” she said. “You do it with every part of you, or not at all.”
On this mission she has two companions as well; who will watch over her and make sure she accomplishes everything in order to become a Priestess. One is Ela, who is one of the most amazing characters Brian Staveley has ever created! Her confidence, her acceptance, her bisexuality, her views on sex, her sense of humor, literally everything! Ela is beyond words amazing and I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. The second companion, Kossal, is a stern older man, who hates anything that denies his God by never dying. He is a fantastic fighter, and also has a very big soft spot for Ela, too. These two characters made one of the best duos I’ve ever read about, and I’d actually love a pre-pre-story about them and some of their adventures together.
Pyrre has made Ananshael her life’s work from a very young age. She had a very hard and unfair childhood that no child should have to endure, so when she returns to her hometown, Dombâng, she doesn’t feel the slightest bit bad about causing a little trouble by recreating an ancient prophecy. It seems harmless enough, well, at least for a worshiper of the God of Death, until someone else picks up where Pyrre leaves off with her reenactment.
From there the city takes a turn for the worse, where we have the maybe only love of Pyrre’s life leading the military against many devoted worshipers and fanatics of three mysterious Gods said to be living in the delta. The worshipers of these three Gods give human sacrifice in hopes of pleasing them, but no one is really sure that they even exist.
Oh, and the delta? That place was so frightening. Snakes, spiders, crocodiles, you name it and it is in there. Whenever the characters would be on a boat floating around, I felt so much anxiety! It was almost like I was living in the Anaconda movie! And let’s not forget the three beautiful Gods that love hunting people, too.
“I realized something about life then: it’s not always good”
This story is truly amazing, with both parts terrifying and beautiful. The topics of love and how many different ways there are to love someone are just exceptional. I also loved how this book kept proving over and over how actions truly do scream in comparison to mere words. And, not to go all Incubus on you guys here, but how love truly is a verb and it’s the most beautiful action any of us can ever do in this life.
“It is an error of grammar to make love a noun. It is not a thing you can have. Love—like doubt or hate—is a verb.”
And the writing in this, God, the writing in this. Brian Staveley’s writing is so eloquent and beautiful. The amount of tabs I placed in this book is honestly unreal. This book is filled with beautiful quote after beautiful quote, and when you pair that with an already magnificent story, this book becomes something of magic.
“Love is not something you can keep. It is something you do, every day, every moment, regardless of who is dying.”
I also praised Brian Staveley for this throughout the entirety of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series, but he truly does write strong female characters so very well. It never feels forced, or like fan-service, or have any hints of misogyny. He truly is just an amazing writer, and he never disappoints with his female (or male) leads.
I totally recommend reading this after you read the other three books in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, because even though this is a standalone and you will understand what’s going on, you will have such a better appreciation of this world, and the races in this world, if you read the original trilogy first. Again, you can totally read this on its own, but you will just miss out on a few things and one particular beautiful epilogue that left me sobbing in my bed, which I literally then cried myself to sleep.
I was so enthralled while reading about Pyrre’s journey, and this will easily be one of my favorite books of 2017. I am completely captivated by this world, and I can’t wait to see what is next. And if you’ve read the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, please give this a try. It’s short, and beautiful, and so very powerful.