4 out of 4 stars
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Galen Bray, a refugee from a war-torn nation sees his new home, Voulhire, as a paradise. A peaceful country on the brink of a golden age, many of Voulhire’s citizens believe nothing is amiss. However, as a newly-assigned lord struggling to erase the trauma caused by his predecessors comes to learn, something is amiss. A king’s dark secret lurks within the minds of his citizens, and the winds of change are stirring in Voulhire…
Matthew Tysz’s slow-burn novel We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies guides readers into a world of mysterious magic and political intrigue. The blend of science fiction and fantasy that creates the world, coupled with its nuanced characters makes for a wonderful reading experience. Despite being relatively slow-paced, the gradually deepening mystery keeps readers hooked. The ending also rewards readers for their patience with a satisfying action scene, making them hunger for more. The editing is professional, and the witty writing style is a delight to read.
The novel begins with its protagonist, Galen, aboard a boat to Voulhire. Galen’s internal thoughts are written very well, with a sense of hope and pathos that quickly endeared me to him. The introductory description of Voulhire is thought-provoking and helps set the overall tone rather nicely. The book primarily shifts between the perspectives of Galen, a lord named Eldus, and the king of Voulhire as well as some side characters. Each character is written distinctly, allowing for the different perspectives to complement each other. Galen’s point of view as a new citizen also handily guides readers into the world of Voulhire. Meanwhile, the King and Eldus’ stories weave mystery and give insight into the bigger picture of the world. I had a small problem with some of the side character’s names. There are two political figures, a dancer named Vidius Crodai, and a chancellor named Midius Maido, with incredibly similar names. I had trouble distinguishing these characters initially, however it became easier as the story went on.
The setting is nothing particularly unique, however the blend of fantasy with select science fiction elements serves the plot well. The magic system, however, is a little too undefined for my taste, and this puts a damper on the sense of stakes. In one of the ending scenes, characters who are “well versed” in magic are shown to be able to break the laws of physics and are ridiculously overpowered. This degree of strength made the actual combat of the fighting scene fall flat, and makes me doubtful of how such a villain could ever be defeated. Perhaps the inclusion of a smaller fight scene with a less skilled mage could've added some much-needed context to the limitations of magic. Fans of fantasy will definitely enjoy this story more than lovers of science fiction. There are several graphic scenes, however, so be warned that this book is not suitable for children.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The wonderfully nuanced characters and the engaging mystery elevate it from a 3. The novel contains barely any errors and is written very well, seamlessly intertwining the narratives of several characters. I enjoyed this depth of character and worldbuilding most. I disliked how vague the magic system was, but not enough to lower my rating. If you're looking to slowly step into a fantastical, intrigue-filled world, then this is the novel for you.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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