What if spilling your own blood was the only way to save yourself?
Masako escapes the Lord Council with only her life intact, her clan shattered and master dead in wake of disaster she wrought. It is her cursed blood that cries out, and a godsborne that answers.
By the power in her blood, and a promise made with it, she’s given a second chance. With it, she must unite the outer clans, move past old rivalries and worse, or face annihilation at the hands of a foreign sect of sorcerers, the Taosii, and their silent invasion.
Only, Masako was executed, she’s meant to be dead. Demonic rumors and a destructive past sow doubt in her campaign before it is begun.
Disclaimer: I received this ebook from Escapist Books and DA Smith in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it (I rated it ⅕ stars), but reading is subjective so feel free to take my thoughts with a grain of salt.
I tried so hard to like this book. It had everything I could possibly want: a strong female main character, a samurai inspired fantasy world, a revenge driven plotline, and dark magic. It was these things that drew me to sign up for the book tour in the first place. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe this simply wasn’t the right book for me. I ended up DNF’ing 86% of the way because I did not have the energy to slog through more.
I thought this book had a lot of potential. I love the concept of a character based on the sin of Pride and this magic system where powers are considered a curse and for many people costs their sanity. It’s clear that DA Smith thought everything about his world through down to the most specific detail. I can see it through all of the names of countries and creatures as well as the political systems. This series has all of the components to be fantastic.
The problem comes down to execution. The worldbuilding was so complex and it feels like the key information and slower pacing needed to understand it wasn’t present. There was so much new information to absorb and because the pacing was so fast I didn’t have any time to understand any of it. I spent a lot of the book playing catch up which left barely any energy left to focus on what else was going on. There’s also a lot of pieces I have questions about. What exactly can Masako do with her powers? What exactly is the deal with the godsborne? Why are characters named Cat Food and Thousand Hands? I think, because Smith knows the world so well, their mind fills in the gaps while they write and as a result I as the reader am missing out. Added note: DA Smith can write an action scene. The descriptions of the fighting were clear and probably one of the few times I knew what was going on.
The other main problem was the characters themselves. I had a lot of difficulty empathizing with Masako. I love a strong, “I don’t need a man” type of female character but in the end she felt stereotypical. She is all consumed by her need for revenge but because I don’t really fully get why she wants revenge so I have a hard time rooting for her. There are the flashbacks but in those no event makes her bitter. She doesn’t change which I think is another reason I struggled with her. I’m so used to the main character changing in some way that to have a static main character is hard to read about.
I think the other problem was the sexism. I read the triggers beforehand, I knew there would be sexism but I don’t think it was necessary at all and it bothers me. There are other ways to show that Masako is a strong, fierce and independent woman. The descriptions of her and the other women bothered me. I don’t think she has a single female friend because each time she comes across one, she basically slut shames them. I get the argument that it’s a product of the culture around her, but after reading books where women still lift other women up despite the sexist culture, having the slut shaming feels cheap and it just added to the stereotype feel. Masako has so much inner sexism there were times I forgot she was a woman because she talks and acts like a misogynistic man. She’s even called a lord (another worldbuilding piece that makes no sense to me).
There’s only one time she’s not and it’s with Goya but the scene is so out of place the writing makes me feel gross. I appreciate the attempt to add diversity and introduce a bi-character but it’s the only time it’s mentioned and as a result, feels like the diversity is thrown in there. I would have appreciated it if this potential romance was drawn out, but instead it’s not addressed again.
Again, it’s a book that had potential. In the end, the misogyny and confusing world won out.