The openings of epic fantasy stories can often be either overwhelming or too spare in the details, but Z hits the perfect balance of worldbuilding and backstory in the first chapter without any sort of info dump. I got a good sense of Symon and his immediate circumstances enough to feel invested in his character as the text revealed further details regarding the bigger picture, which had me curious about how a hasty engagement and wedding would solve any problems.
Though I was predisposed to dislike Symon’s affianced (and his lover) ahead of time, a surprise character revelation was a fun twist that nicely upended this plan. But before I could be perturbed about liking Deyvid despite my (and probably Symon’s) best intentions, the quick launch into all sorts of action overwhelmed me in the best ways. What follows is the most awkward and surprisingly hot wedding night ever, which served the needs of the plot and story without crossing boundaries of consent.
This book is on the shorter end, and packed with action, but still has excellent pacing. Z’s worldbuilding is also consistently orchestrated to give us exactly the information we need when it is integral to the story. I should note, however, that the external plot thoroughly overshadows the romance arc in this book. While we see the origins of Symon and Deyvid’s friendship, I felt like I had the take the deeper bond and affection that grows between them as a given rather than seeing it play out amidst the active danger and political intrigue that consumes the trio. Petur’s interest is even less developed but more believable based on his characterization, especially once I got a glimpse into his narrative.
The romance arc, such as it is, does arrive at a stable point at the end of this installment, but the overarching plot is gearing up to be even more explosive. I look forward to seeing how everything intensifies, from the various layers of political and personal conflicts at play to the way Symon, Deyvid, and Petur evolve into the truly dynamic team promised by their various facets.