Author: Rachel Forde
Series: The Sixth Cycle (#1)
Publisher: Isabella Press (2011)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Nara-Ya is a pugnacious adolescent girl on the run from a powerful sorceress. Fate lands her in the company of her polar opposite, the soft-spoken Donovan Brennan, who is simultaneously struggling to lead a Resistance movement, regain a throne for a wronged King, and prevent a war between the land he lives in and the land of his birth.
Brennan walks a fine line between his principles and success; Nara-Ya, by contrast, knows what she has to do to survive, and circumstances shunt her towards the life of a fighter and warrior. However, as war looms, as her friendship with Donovan grows into something more, and as Nara-Ya is forced to confront her darker instincts, she begins to question her destiny, and is forced to make a decision that will alter the fate of their world“ GoodReads’ blurb
You know when you go into a book expecting something good and somehow the result turns out to be just plain amazing? That’s what happened with Lastborn: the blurb was promising, but the book? It blew me away!
First off, I loved the main characters, and I think you’ll like them too. They are well developed, in that we can see the way they change as a consequence of their actions, and how their actions depend on where they are mentally at the moment – they are coherent in their progression, and it’s a progression that’s fully justified by the plot. Because of this, it was too easy to put myself in their place, to sympathize with them, to understand them. Just this aspect would be enough to score a major point with me, because I don’t love anything quite as much as inner logic, but there was more: they were unique. Nara-ya was a mystery wrapped in a bit of an enigma, and I became invested in her self-discovery journey from the beginning, but the revelation was Donovan. I mean it, because, how many pacifist heroes have you read about?
Not the kind where scruples keep them from acting in the critical moment, so that there might be a proper climax later one, but real, deeply convinced, well-founded pacifists. The kind who will take a beating and still refuse to take up arms against their aggressor. I know I couldn’t name any single character fitting those terms, and that’s the reason I loved Donovan so much. Not only he was good: he believed in good, in non-violence... and he had his beliefs shaken in a harsh, violent world. He didn’t live in a sheltered, rose-colored world: he knew the price for his actions was steep, and he wasn’t always even sure about following the right path... and in the end... Well, in the end, after his trials, he’s still unique and real.
Those trials he faced were another strong suit for the book. They are fairly well summarized in the blurb, but even then I was unprepared for the depth and detail of this fantasy world built in a semblance of the Industrial Revolution, with hunger and fear and oppression as mighty an enemy as the sorceress queen herself. I think this shift from the classical medieval setting was very clever, and extremely well done: there are fantastic creatures, yes, and there’s magic, yes, but mostly there’s humans, who are both good and evil, who defend different views in a moment where change’s in the air.
The deviousness of the political side, the struggles of the Resistance... completely sucked me into the setting.
But of course, that’s not nearly all there’s to it. While life is anything but easy in the civilized lands, and their shaky peace with the wild Makeda (the northern country, reminiscent of a native american tribe system) seems to be just one step from crumbling... The real worry comes from the sorcerer queen herself, her slaver kingdom, and the lengths she’s willing to go to in order to... what? Expand her borders? Find more slaves? Hunt something in particular?
I didn’t know, and I confess that I could never tell until that point where events start spiralling and pieces start falling into place... and then I saw the big picture, and it wasn’t what I thought it would be! I had only seen one small part of the whole, and by the time realization hit I very nearly screamed, “no! it can’t be!” Mostly, because I checked how much book was left and I thought, “it can’t end like this”.
Good news? It doesn’t. There’s a crazy climax that will leave you reeling, and somehow it’ll all make sense before it’s over.
Even better news? That does not mean that there’s no room for a sequel. A sequel I’m very much looking forward.
I guess the bad part is that now I’ve got this great world alive in my head, all this characters chattering away and begging to tell me how their travels end –and begin-, but that I’ve to wait.
Still, I will wait. Because it’s so worth it. Meanwhile, I think you should read Lastborn.