Series: Archives of the Invisible Sword #1
Published by HarperCollins
Published on 17 June 2019
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Treasure hunting has never been more dangerous... Tomb Raider meets Poison Study!
New York Times bestselling author Maria Snyder begins an action-packed new fantasy series.
'He thinks you are the thief...'
Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed - an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess - she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.
But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they're found - and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince's soldiers and the Priestess' deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves...
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Maria V Snyder is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I have loved everything of hers that I’ve read so far.
I love her characters and their relationships, her magic systems, her world building, and I really love that you can recognise Snyder’s favourite tropes in different series.
For example, Snyder loves to put her female main character in positions where she has to unwillingly perform a job for a high-ranking male character. Snyder loves to write two characters who are in conflict at first, and then become love interests. Snyder loves to write kindly plutonic caretaker-type characters who can’t help but kind of love the main character. In this novel, Shyla is an outcast Sun-kissed in a world where the sun literally scorches the ground every day. Everyone lives underground, and Shyla specialises in finding old artefacts. When Shyla is accused of stealing a valuable artefact, she needs to find them for real before her only friend is murdered by the arrogant Water Prince.
So you see, I love seeing the familiar way Snyder’s mind works. I love her world-building, and I did really love this unique world with a killing sun and lost underground civilisations, and this rigid societal structure where everyone is fighting to live in such limited and dangerous space.
I was also intrigued with Shyla herself, who has to constantly prove herself in a society that shuns her because of an accident of birth. Shyla has blonde hair and blonde eyes, which makes her sun-kissed, and everyone treats her like she’s cursed apart from the monks who rescued her as an abandoned infant. She has worked hard to prove her own usefulness and resourcefulness, but it’s never enough for her society. It’s a treat to follow her logic and watch her figure out what she needs to do to achieve her goals.
But what I didn’t love was the repetitiveness of the plot. Shyla was kidnapped, tortured, and almost murdered countless times in this novel to the point where I actually grew bored with it, and this was before the half-way mark. Everything in the novel happens in the span of a few weeks, and that’s including the several weeks Shyla spends prisoner or resting, recovering from injuries. There is your typical Snyder caretaker character that continues to hassle Shyla to sleep and eat, as if she’s incapable of looking after herself. Shyla is constantly betrayed, or under-estimates all the characters around her who have their own motivations, and it just gets so repetitive.
She literally can’t trust anyone because everyone is trying to kill her, which made it difficult for me to form my own emotional relationships with anyone other than Shyla (even the potential love interest, which is most definitely NOT an insta-love and might be hard for your to identify at first, like me). Most of the large cast of characters don’t stick around for long enough for me to like any of them, and the ones that do don’t endear themselves to me.
On the other hand, I loooooved the violence. Snyder didn’t shy away from showing it on-page, and it could get pretty gruesome and almost even border on horror. The scheming and machinations and motivations of every single character reminded me of the later Study books, where, at one point, I think Snyder was writing 20-something characters on page, each with different motivations. She doesn’t make anything easy for Shyla.
The other thing that ended up being pretty cool was the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it. Just know that it’s worth reading through to the end.
I’m hoping the issues I raised were just part of the ARC. With Snyder being a favourite author of mine, I’ve pre-ordered the book, and I hope that one day when I pick it up to re-read it, I’ll love it just as much as I’ve loved her other novels.