Arkady Ryswife is a devout member of the Iolite League, a religious society dedicated to building the better world of the future. Behind the scenes, however, he is an elite soldier, a member of a covert wing of the League that ensures its ends are met where peaceful means do not suffice.
These operatives have a mission to recover crucial fragments of the world’s lost, fractured history. Arkady’s team is not the only one willing to kill for these relics just the best. At least, until a fatal mistake leaves the team in shambles on the eve of what may be the most important mission of their lives.
Forced back into the field without delay, Arkady and his companions must recover a piece of data that the League has been seeking for years. Still reeling from their loss, they must go behind enemy lines, outsiders in a notoriously xenophobic nation. Isolated and suspicious of betrayal at every turn, they plunge into the web of one of the world’s most astonishing mysteries, a journey from which none of them will return unscathed.
Cover illustrations by Kamui.
Published by Sofawolf.
It took me a while to actually decide to buy this book. The reason for this was the blurb on the back of the book. I just wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy it. However, because I am a horrible person and judge books by their covers, I decided to take a leap of faith and bought the book, due to the fantastic cover art. Great job there, Kamui!
This is the second book by Kevin Frane in the same setting, but I actually didn’t know that. If I’d known, I’d probably gone for his other book Thousand Leaves first. However, the two stories are independent enough of each other, that they can be read in any order.
It certainly didn’t feel like that when I started on the first chapter though. As a reader, you’re thrown into the story and into a situation where all kinds of things are happening, but you know absolutely nothing. I tend to get quite confused when characters know more than I do. It doesn’t take long until you catch up on things though. Not that you won’t get confused as a reader after that though, as this book has its fill of confusing events and characters.
Talking about characters, I have to say that I think most characters in this book are actually quite likable and interesting, including the antagonists. Arkady is a very likeable person, and Ming-Jun was also someone I enjoyed reading about. Everybody seems to have their reasons for doing things the way they do, and once I got the whole picture, I really couldn’t view the antagonists as antagonists anymore. However, there was one character that really drove me insane. SPOILER ALERT!
The one person in the whole book that I absolutely couldn’t stand was Il-Hyeong. This was mainly because I had absolutely no idea why that character did what he did. Usually, it’s quite easy for me to understand why certain characters do certain things, but this fox is an enigma. There were many moments in this book where I would’ve loved to personally shoot him in the face. It’s too bad that Arkady had too big a heart to do so, which was another point of frustration. This one character killed off some of the characters I liked most, and his paranoia level was over 9000, which made him a real pain in the ass. I’d say I was relieved whenever he was out of the picture for a while.
I think Frane meant for him to be a mystery and a point of frustration though, because when a character is this messed up, it has to be intentional. Good job at playing with my emotions, Frane!
END OF SPOILER ALERT!
The world in which all of these events take place is wonderfully designed by Frane, and he seems to have thought of everything while designing it. The thing I loved most about it, is that it takes place in the far far future, but it doesn’t feel too sci-fi for me. The history of the world, the different religious and cultural groups, and the way that Frane portrayed the world in the book just made it feel complete. Even though I didn’t know anything of this setting, the book gave me a very subtle guided tour while I was following the story.
I cannot say for sure, but it seems to me that the story took place in a world inspired by Asia, perhaps due to Frane having lived in Japan for a while? I base this on the character’s names, which definitely sound Chinese and Korean to me, and on the implementation of Zhōngwén, which is basically a form of Chinese. I’d suspected this as soon as the language was used in the book, but didn’t know for sure until the very end.
Due to me actually being unable to really point out the true antagonists in this book, I had trouble putting my finger on the actual plot. We were following Arkady on his mission, of course, but there were so many questions I had while reading, that I sometimes got a little confused. The characters themselves also had no idea what was going on most of the time. That one character being such an asshole really didn’t help either. Frane truly plunged us into a giant web of deceit, lies, betrayal, and secrets.
However, most of the questions actually get answered by the time you get to the end, and I must say that I’m quite pleased with the path Arkady chose for himself.
After reading this book, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading Thousand Leaves as well, when that time comes.