*I received a free copy of this novel, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Let the battle begin! The vast Tzoladian army clashes with the Karsonian confederation in the valley of Mt. Sarmos. But the stakes are higher than a mere fight for power between countries. As the cruel emperor intensifies his persecution of the “subhumans,” the three chosen youths make tough choices that will decide the fate of the world.
Amanki is a soldier fighting for an empire that wants him dead. After losing her freedom and her seal, Brina faces the ruthless leader of the Sparaggi tribes. Tuka is surrounded by intrigue. Plots of assassination abound.
Thrown into circumstances they never would have chosen or even imagined, the teens must adapt or die. Have they forgotten their true mission?
This is the third book in the Tales of Tzoladia series and you really do need to read books 1 and 2 first, as the characters and plot develop as the series progresses and at this point the plot is very much underway and heading towards a crescendo!
What started as separate story strands with Brina the Glider, Amanki the Webbie, Moshoi the Armoured (and his brother Tuka), and Metlan the Cat Rider is now a complex tapestry in which the main and minor characters weave in and out of each other’s paths with increasing frequency and the seals that the young people are supposed to unite mimic playing pieces in a large-scale shell game – keep your eyes on them at all times as they shuffle round and round!
The story is still split into chapters which follow the different main characters individually; mostly in third-person narrative from the character point of view, but Amanki’s in first-person narrative, which can be a little disruptive to the flow as it switches in and out of his viewpoint.
Other than those characters whose thoughts and feelings we see directly, it is becoming increasingly unclear who can be trusted: as everyone plays their own games, who is acting for the ‘right reasons’ and who is seeking personal gain of some sort. The tension is high and the risks higher, and I don’t envy the heroes as they try to navigate this moral maze.
Whilst all of the books have had a religious bent, with the main characters turning from the gods and beliefs of their race to follow ‘the one, true god’ Adon instead – a clear allegory for Christianity – this aspect is more overt in this third novel. On multiple occasions the characters call to Adon to save them or guide them, or pray for the path they should follow. This develops smoothly and naturally with the characters, as we follow their doubts, struggles and temptations as they face war and intrigue on all sides.
This is a well-written and immersive fantasy series, suitable for teen and young adult readers (and adults, obviously!) who appreciate the underlying moral and spiritual messages as well as the entertaining quest.
Tuka had once warned his brother Moshoi not to get mixed up in Burlem’s plans to avenge his wife’s death. Rhabdom, the wise man of the mountain, had sent the brothers on this mission to Tzoladia. They were to deliver a jug etched with symbols to Amanki, a boy with webbed feet. The fate of the world depended on it. But it was hard for Tuka to focus on the fate of the world with so much going on around him. Getting through each day was hard enough. Like the new star in the sky, the prophecy of a doomed world loomed over him.
– R. A. Denny, The Emperor’s War
The Emperor’s War (and the rest of the Tales of Tzoladia) is available on Amazon right now!