Sydney knows a thing or two about life on the streets. After her guardian Edgar is killed for his work with the resistance she flees her former home, living on the streets and relying on her own wits and people like her dubious on/off lover Zared to survive. When she is captured and sentenced to death she is saved by a wizard who opens her eyes to a world of magic she thought no longer existed in Thanumor. She also becomes aware of her own connection with faery folk the Tuatha and the bastard Prince Willem. He seeks to claim the throne of his deceased father and bring the reign of the oppressive Guild to an end. She struggles to see her value among a group of wizards, warriors and monks but her association with Edgar means more than she ever thought.
The book starts by setting up Sydney's past, then moves to the present and her perspective. She's a young woman who has had to do things she's not proud of to survive. Last Hope is a tough place that is only kind to the privileged few. As the story progresses she is judged by others who haven't lived a life like hers, and connects strongly with those who have. She also finds that a lot of what she had believed about her past was not true and has to reassess her own image of herself. I found her likeable and was also drawn to other major characters in the group supporting the would-be king. I thought even the villain of the piece was well developed, and avoided becoming a caricature with just a hint of what might have shaped him.
The tale moves at a good pace, with lulls in the actions as the group stop briefly to plan and regather their thoughts. This contrasts with the moments of peril, and the battles and killings raging around them. The tone is dark but with definite moments of hope. They face Schrammig, a fearsome individual who has caused untold misery but Syd finds herself having to decide whether she lowers herself to his level to avenge the deaths of so many.
This is a novel that has heaps of potential for a sequel or sequels. However unlike some fantasy sagas there is a very definite end to this book and it feels like a complete story, rather than in need of a second volume. I would love to see the development of certain relationships, see more of a focus on some of the characters in this book and find out more about Sydney's heritage and abilities. Thanumor is a world that isn't all that different to our own, although with a historical feel to it. While magic and the supernatural have an important role to play in the story it isn't too fantastical and a lot of tale depends on very human relationships and struggles. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed this fantasy novel so much.
Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press
My Rating: 4*