Into the Broken Lands (2022, DAW) 1 star

Into the Broken Lands

1 star

Overall this book wasn't for me. I found it heavy-handed and repetitive. Would not recommend.

Plot-wise, this is an extremely long fantasy quest novel about insecure heir Ryan, knowledge-seeking-at-all-costs scholar cousin Lyelee, and nearly indestructible magical "weapon"/actually a person Nonee going to find some fuel in a dangerous mage-torn land to keep a magical fire burning for ostensibly motivational reasons.

The book sets up a tale of Ryan following in the footsteps of the previous heir Garrett's journey to find fuel and intersperses the two journeys. Unfortunately, I don't feel like these scenes served the book very well. They didn't reveal much hidden backstory, didn't really develop Arianna and Nonee's relationship (which felt fixed from the moment they met), didn't reveal much about Garrett himself, and only served to draw out the journey by doubling its length.

The characters felt very flat to me. Sure, Ryan and Lyelee have a little bit of (what you might expect) character arcs, but I felt like 90% of the book was emphasizing their initial characterization and the last 10% had the interesting arc. The rest of the characters were fairly one-note to my ears. In several occasions where members of the party died, others offered condolences and would say something akin to "oh yes they were a good lay" and I was like EXCUSE ME there was not a whiff of this on the page.

I think overall this book's biggest strength is interesting worldbuilding: mage roads that take the same length to walk, politics, scholars wanting knowledge but differentiating themselves from mages, Captain Marstan and Tanika's relationship, what's going on with the fuel and the fire, the rock with a face that follows the party, the world itself being somewhat sentient, angry dirt, etc etc etc. However, these interesting details are dragged under by a long series of encounters (mostly solved by Nonee in both past and present).