Disclaimer: I attended the same graduate program as the author and consider her a friend; however, I purchased my hardcopy version of this novel for full price.
I spend a lot of time reading urban fantasy these days, so it had been a while since I dove into a more traditional epic fantasy. Starting this novel felt a little bit like coming home. However, this novel is an epic fantasy for the modern age, filled with familiar elements of detailed world-building and political intrigue, but with surprising twists regarding characterization and other story elements.
Though fantasy novels set in vaguely medieval/renaissance time periods are a trope of the genre, including castles, swordplay, and royalty, The Dying of the Golden Day fills out the world with a unique and detailed magical and religious tradition that separate it from other books. The main character herself is a study in contrasts — Aurelia is connected with the prince of her country through a magical bond, but their relationship is that of trusted adviser and friend rather than a source for sexual tension or other such drama. In addition, she is a woman both magically gifted and intellectually trained in the healing arts, but who does not shy away from learning to defend herself in physical combat.
Though Aurelia’s narrative is who we follow through the plot, I was also very interested in the other two characters with magical ability — Edana and Brennus. Both of them surprised me with their character development and revelations late in the book, and I hope they are explored more fully in later series installments.
Like all proper epic fantasy, this book was LONG. While I can’t look back and point to sections that could have been cut whole-sale, and there were never scenes that dragged to the point of being unbearable, there was just a lot of story to get through. Luckily, things picked up in the back 1/4 of the book as events hurled toward a climax. Though not a traditional cliffhanger, many questions are left unanswered, and I am intrigued enough to continue with the series to see where these characters — and their entire world — go next.
Currently reading: “Roman Holiday” (Chronicles of St. Mary’s short story) by Jodi Taylor