3 out of 4 stars
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We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies is a wonderfully constructed fantasy tale by author Matthew Tysz.
This compelling story focuses on several interwoven storylines that begin distinctively but slowly align with one another.
It begins with a story of discovery, as one of our main characters, Galen Bray, guides us through his migration from the Prince Islands to the island of Voulhire. Galen’s estranged uncle has just died and left him his home and blacksmithing business, and now the young man has to adapt to a completely different world and society.
Walking alongside Galen’s storyline is Lord Eldus Alderman’s own journey. Eldus is a newly-anointed lord tasked with bringing the quaint seaside village of Hillport to prosperity. But Hillport has a dark history, one tainted with blood and sorcery by the notorious mage Dalehei Meldorath, who dabbled in forbidden magic and was punished by the king.
These two storylines are told side by side, Galen’s in a first-person POV and Eldus’s in third-person with an omniscient narrator.
This last method is always a tough one to master because the reader is somehow aware of a certain distance between themselves and the characters.
I found that when the narration focused on landscapes and the intricate workings of the Voulhirian society, it was spellbinding and transportive. Tysz has complete mastery over the written word and of the detailed worldbuilding of his story, and thus manages to completely enrapture you in it.
It was extremely interesting to see the author’s construction of this fantasy world, its politics and economics.
However, when it came to character connection, I sometimes felt this third-person omniscience prevented me from connecting directly with the characters, as if I was seeing them through a faraway screen instead of traveling with them.
That is not to say the characters aren’t likable or at least intriguing, but it often feels as if you need more of a direct connection.
In that, the parts that focused on Galen often incited a more emotional response from me.
Nevertheless, it was engrossing to see how all the different storylines collided.
Joining Galen and Eldus further along the line are several other characters with importance to the construction of this world, as well as the future of upcoming installments.
By piling them together, Tysz steadily builds up an interconnected fate between all characters; while one story focuses on the discovery of the self, the other initiates a greater battle for the fate of the kingdom, and possibly the world.
Surely every character has their part to play in the latter, but the author leaves just enough questions for the reader to wonder exactly what that part would be.
I was a bit concerned with certain elements though, such as the only LGBTQ+ character being a devious man for whom his sexuality is a tool of manipulation, and an instance where the narrative relates rape to intimacy.
There are several usages of strong language and references to pedophilia, though no instances of the latter happen on-page.
Despite its weaker elements, We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies proved to be a fascinating read, with a majestic atmosphere that drew me in, and an exciting ending hinting at much bigger stakes for the upcoming installments of the series.
Fans of intricate fantasy worlds with menacing, otherworldly magic systems, will love this one.
As such, I firmly rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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