In this stunning work of fantasy fiction, we are introduced to a theocratic society and a unique use of the concept of negative matter. In an act of brilliant irony, the Prophet has been using the Kelanni people and money to fund the development of a weapon to annihilate them. One of his top Keltar, an elite soldier, stumbles upon his plan and begins an unwilling journey with four others to save the people she has sworn to protect. With former allies breathing down their necks, they race against the clock to save their people and defeat a false god.
The world of the Kelanni is richly created, from the landscapes and intricate societal rules to the lodestones that power the Prophet's men. Whiteway seamlessly works the necessary explanations into his lyrical prose, allowing one to savor the words and the imagery as well as the plot development. There is an overarching sense of wonder that governs this entirety of this story, no mean feat considering that all is not sunshine and daisies. Perhaps it is related to the balance of intricate description and deliberate vagueness. The latter tactic lends readers the latitude to visualize the Kelanni and various oddly-named organisms as they see fit.
The character development in this novel is sound. Particularly well-executed are the internal conflicts within Shann and Keris; some of the changes fly under the radar unless one is paying particular attention. Their quest is more than a physical journey; it is a period of forced emotional maturation for all involved. And this is just the start.
Unfortunately, there were some mishaps within this novel that I had difficulty overlooking. The first is a paragraph in chapter fourteen dedicated to Shann's first time riding a graylesh. It's a lovely passage, but it directly conflicts with the first page of chapter three, in which she rode a graylesh to Lind. The second, and possibly more subjective complaint is that the Prophet has crossed the supposedly insurmountable barrier facing our heroes more than once, yet they never consider how he may have accomplished this feat. In fact, they openly discuss how no one but Captain Arval has ever successfully crossed the Great Barrier of Storms. Adding this to some wonky use of semicolons and italics, I found myself pausing many times in spite of the riveting storyline.
Book One of this new series was a wonderful fantasy read, and I look forward to continuing with Lyall and company in Book Two.
(Review copy provided by the author)