4 out of 4 stars
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We Are Voulhire: A New Arrival Under Great Skies is an intricate fantasy novel by Matthew Tysz. The narrative alternates between several key characters, the first being Galen Bray, a poor refugee from the Land of the Princes. The book begins with Galen relating the story of the evil Emperor of Lullabies and his four sons, whom he believed to be plotting against him. In order to appease the princes, the emperor gave each of them a chain of islands off the mainland. The princes eventually went to war with each other.
When news arrives that Galen has inherited his uncle’s forge in Magnum Caelum, he eagerly accepts the opportunity to leave his war-torn home and begin a new life. He sails away on a boat filled with refugees, each of whom gives a brief account of the place in Voulhire for which they are bound.
The book is exceptionally well-written and is most certainly professionally edited. I found only one minor error in the text. The story is engaging and the narrative changes flow seamlessly. I felt that Galen was an engaging and relatable protagonist. Lord Eldus is a well-meaning nobleman attempting to help the town of Hillport recover from the indecencies visited upon it by Lord Orlin and the wicked mage Meldorath.
My favorite aspect of the book was the change in narratives between the various characters, allowing the reader to experience different aspects of Voulhire. It is evident that the author put a great deal of care and thought into creating this intricate and varied realm.
The thing that I disliked most about the book was the misogynistic treatment of the female characters, most of whom are presented as sex objects. Galen’s guide Rowan views women as conquests and disrespects the female innkeeper in the tavern where Galen and Rowan first meet by slapping her on the buttocks. In a scene where a prisoner who is quickly discovered to be a mage is on trial, he uses his powers to cause one female spectator to have an unwanted orgasm.
Because Beth, a particularly engaging female character who appears halfway through the book, plays an integral role in the story, I am giving the book four out of four stars. I agonized about whether I should knock a star off my rating for the sexist fashion in which the female characters in the story are portrayed. However, overall, I was extremely impressed with the imaginative crafting and impeccable polishing of an intricate and compelling tale.
I recommend this book for readers who enjoy fantasy with a dark edge. Because of the disturbing sexual elements, I do not recommend the book for younger readers. The book would also not be a good choice for readers who prefer a lighter style of fantasy.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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