4 out of 4 stars
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We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies is the first novel in We are Voulhire series by Matthew Tysz. It tells the story of magnificent kingdom called Voulhire which is on the edge of entering its Golden age. On the outside, kingdom flourishes, but not everything is as perfect as it may seem, and under the cover of progress, happiness and wealth, evil and danger lurk, ready to destroy this peaceful paradise.
The book begins with the arrival of Galen Bray to Voulhire. Galen originally comes from war-torn islands called Land of Princes, which are surrounding Voulhire. He is still young and naive and has a long way to go to understand the customs of his new home. It's clear that Galen is the main character of the story - the book begins with his arrival and the majority of chapters are from his point of view. He is nice and sweet protagonist, but sadly not very interesting one. That, however, might change as we are still at the beginning of the story.
As I already mentioned, the book is divided into chapters, each chapter from the point of view of a different character. They are mostly narrated by the omniscient narrator, with exception to Galen's chapters, as he is his own narrator. Because of that, we get to know many interesting characters. Some of them are sympathetic, like for example Lord Eldus — a new lord of a small seaside town named Hillport, which he is trying to pull out from the shadows of evil, cast on him by the two previous lords, but also less sympathetic like Midius Maido, the second most powerful man in the kingdom who is also the head of the ancient and powerful order of knights called Mianora, but who only cares for his own benefit and not the happiness of the kingdom. These views were interesting, as they showed us what was happening throughout Voulhire around the same time. They also showed us events that will be more important in the wider story.
What was wonderful about this book was that you could see that the author really thought about every aspect of this world. The first books of the fantasy series are often clumsy in their world building, but this is not the case here. The history, economy, politics, religion and almost every other little detail was worked out. And what I probably appreciate the most is the magic and its way of representation - dancing. The image of dancers doing magic with every single motion of their body was truly captivating. I also really appreciate the explanation of the magic. It's one of the hardest things in fantasy stories - to explain where magic comes from, how it works, and how to control it. Matthew Tysz did a great job with this. And although some things remain a mystery, I believe that they will be explained in future books.
Unfortunately, not all things were that perfect. Sometimes, it was hard for me to determine the time when the story took place. King, castles, lords - all of this gave the novel a medieval vibe, but there were some things that confused me. For instance, things like photos, restaurants, football etc., are way too modern for me to be present in a book with medieval setting. Industrialization was frequently mentioned, so I understand the presence of some things like steam engines or plumbing, but usage of modern slang, or mention of psychology, was kind of confusing. The line between medieval kingdom and modern world should be made more clear, because that way it doesn't make sense that some industries or sciences were developed like in modern world, and others were not.
This is also related to the position of women in the society. We can see that in this world they are practically equal to men, or have at least more freedom compared to the women from other medieval fantasy books, but unfortunately, there are almost no female characters in the novel. Of all the narrators, there was only one woman, and although it looks like she will have a big role in the future, that's still not enough. So we just have to wait and see what the next books will bring.
And that is perhaps my biggest problem with this book: it is a good introduction to a series, but a bad stand-alone book. There were some breathtaking action scenes, and some characters had actually completed their story arc, but overall, practically nothing happened. It is also difficult to determine in which direction the story will go, so the main idea and the main message of the work are still unknown.
The whole book was exceptionally well edited, and it was read very easily. There were some, I believe not intentional, mistakes, like for example character having ´dark blond hair, almost the color of charcoal´, which doesn't really makes sense. But there were no grammatical errors. It contained, however, some vulgar words, mentions of pedophilia and many lascivious jokes.
Overall, it was a good introduction book to a promising series. I think every fantasy lover, young or old, man or woman, will instantly fall in love with this captivating and promising new world of Voulhire. And, as there are going to be eight other books, I decided not to judge this one as harshly as I would if We are Voulhire was, for example, just a trilogy. So, because it is just a small part of a much bigger picture, I decided to give it 4 out of 4 stars, as I believe the series will eventually fulfill all my expectations and its own potential.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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