While on a field-trip, Tyen, a student of magic and archaeology, uncovers an ancient book with a difference - it once was a woman. Vella, a young ambitious sorcerer-bookbinder, was transformed by her mentor the most powerful sorcerer of the time and has been imprisoned in book form for many centuries. A person holding the book can communicate with Vella, and she, in return, can read their mind and absorb information from them, in this way acquiring a vast store of knowledge. Tyen's world, which powers industrial processes through the harnessing of magic, is facing a potential disaster - the total depletion of magic - and Vella might hold the answer to it. Tyen should hand her over to his professors at the Academy...but what would they do with her?
In another country, where magic is used solely by priests, Rielle has been brought up with the belief that a girl or woman using magic is wrong. Unauthorised use of magic is seen as stealing from the angels and attracts severe punishment, but Rielle finds herself, with the best intentions, lured into doing so...
I was at first a bit daunted by the length of this - like so many fantasy novels it's written on an epic scale, just over 550 pages but once I started reading I found the pages flicking past quite quickly - even so, things are quite slow moving at times; there's a lot of world-building and introduction of characters and their back stories rather than pushing the story forward but this is of course Book 1 of a series with everything being set up on a blank stage.
It really feels like two separate stories as within this book, Tyen's and Riell's story lines don't cross at all. Instead of the more common format of alternating chapters following each character, the book is split into larger chunks with several chapters following Tyen alternating with a similar number about Rielle, so having been immersed in one world it was occasionally a jolt to go back to the other.
As regards the two 'worlds', Tyen's was the more intriguing with an industrial revolution having been based on the use of magic - a magic, which like the fossil-fuels that support our industries, is running out. Various factions have differing ideas as to how this problem should be countered leading to intrigue - and danger for Tyen who inadvertently and naively finds himself caught up as the discoverer of Vella. Rielle's homeland seems a more 'traditional' fantasy setting, a desert pre-industrial land ruled by priest who are the only ones allowed to tap into magic resources, and her story more one of personal development from an obedient daughter to independent minded young woman.
An excellent start to a new fantasy but it's going to be a long read with no knowing how many books the series will span.
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Orbit
Genre - Adult Fantasy