This book is part philosophy and part fantasy. It struggles with the themes of destiny, kinship (what does it mean to be kin to someone), love, what makes a good ruler, friendship, and vengeance. At the same time, it is good, old-fashioned fantasy set in a traditional Medieval world.
The beginning, in fact, reminded me more than a little of a Dungeons and Dragons game. The plot is fairly simple. There is a people that need to be reunified and a Union (a kind of mafia) that is a pestilence to many different peoples. An unlikely duo—an empress and an assassin–unite (without ever quite realizing it) to accomplish the union of the former and the utter defeat of the latter.
In between there is magic and ruthlessness and a kind of love. There is also the occasional bit of dry humor which I definitely appreciated. The characters are satisfyingly multi-dimensional. There are no truly good or bad guys here and their motives and backstories unfold gradually. To be honest, half the time I kept reading because I wanted to know what these people were about.
I think maybe the biggest flaw in this book is that it tries to set too much philosophy on too slim an edifice. Dialogue and pace often suffer as a result.
Still, if you’re looking for an unconventional fantasy novel that has more to it than the usual, well-worn plot of adventurers saving the world, I would recommend giving High Rage a go.
If you’re looking for looking for an unconventional fantasy novel, I would recommend High Rage.