3 out of 4 stars
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So, I’m a fan of Matthew Tysz. While his writing can be dark and graphic, I think there’s a lot of good characterisation to his books. His characters feel like people, like actual living, breathing people I could encounter on the street. It’s why I took the opportunity to review We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies.
As a fantasy book it’s pretty good. The worldbuilding is thorough and feels alive, even if we don’t see much of the actual realm, and the rules of the universe are somewhat established without the explanation feeling didactic. A bonus is that our heroes aren’t the usual warriors I’m accustomed to (this is a mark of all of Tysz’s works, actually).
So, given all of this and the 3 out of 4 stars I’m giving it, what is it about?
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies is the first of the We are Voulhire series and it runs on two storylines. Galen Bray arrives to Magnum Caelum, a town in Voulhire, from the Lands of Princes at the wish of his late great-uncle. New to the kingdom and the peace it offers, Galen struggles to find his footing after so long just surviving in a warring state with the help of his uncle’s executor, Rowan. When the search for lactis (a white variation of steel) sees them finding a new type of rock, Rowan and Galen must find out what it is.
At the same time, Lord Eldus Alderman, new to his assignment at Hillport, investigates his two predecessors and the mystery behind their falls from grace. As time runs out for him, can he withstand the danger that the former Lord Meldorath presents? Or will he fall to Meldorath’s evil machinations?
Both storylines make for an interesting tale that sets up the rest of the series well. The problem is that it’s all setup. The major set piece that propels the series doesn’t happen until the climax of the book, making most of it just exposition. While it works out well for the book as it creates what I noted previously to be a world that is alive and vibrant, it still left me frustrated because of the number of questions that I had at the end with no answer in sight.
Not that this is a disservice to the book. Some books are meant to be expository when in a series. It just drew away from my enjoyment of it.
One thing that I did love, though, is that Tysz used dance as a part of the book’s characterisation and action. If you’ve read his other books, like The Last City of America and The King of May, you’ll remember that dance played a role in how some of the characters were defined. Here, it’s not limited to one individual character, but entire groups and it made for quite an intriguing addition to an already vibrant cast.
I also really liked the way he handled the political side of the book’s worldbuilding. There’s a section at the end that functions as a glossary for the book. Many of the entries aren’t actually mentioned, but they do expand on what is, to flesh out the political landscape that Tysz paints and give it more of a context under which to exist. It also helped to keep the various dynasties and political players straight when I needed it to.
The book is well worth the rating. While it does have the occasional error and its state as more exposition than story is a downside, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to fans of fantasy and Tysz himself. It’s a great, if dark and violent read and I can’t help but want to read more.
Happy reading everyone!
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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