Unusual story setup but I enjoyed every minute of this.
So this tells the story of Kihrin, the son of a musician in a brothel, who also works part time as a thief. At the start of the book he is in a jail cell and is being forced to recount his story to the jailor who he appears to know. Most of the rest of the book is in the form of a series of flashbacks from when he saw something in an attempted burglary that he shouldn’t have seen, until he ends up in the cell.
As mentioned this is a pretty unusual framing for a book. Half the book is from Kihrin’s POV at one timeline in the past, told in the first person. The other is from the jailor’s POV, and is in the third person from Kihrin’s and other’s perspectives, set even earlier in the past. The two stories gradually merge as the book progresses until they meet and then we end up in the ‘present’ in the cell. The reason on how the jailor knows all this is gradually revealed. The other fairly unique thing is that the text is sprinkled with footnotes from an unknown (at least until later in the book) person addressed to the Emperor. They are almost on every page, sometimes with multiple footnotes. It all took a bit of getting used to but I ended up really enjoying the format and it took some skill from the author to keep the tension going considering you know where it’s all heading.
I knew basically nothing about this going in and that wasn’t a bad thing. It starts rather generic, orphaned son, mysterious past etc and I thought I knew where it was going. And it did go there. But what I wasn’t expecting was how it blew up in proportion so quickly. Like before you know it, there are interactions with Gods, massive dragons the size of a large island, the land of the dead and demons running through it all. There are also prophecies mentioned, not too many but I feel they’ll become integral later. I know some people seem to dislike prophecies intensely but I have always enjoyed the trope if done well.
It can be hard keeping people straight, especially once the re-incarnation thing is brought in and characters were different people in history and some remember their past, some don’t etc. There are also multiple races to keep track of, a fairly detailed history, and also body swapping is a potential thing so some people are other people in different bodies. Complicated eh? There is an appendix at the back which helps with this.
This is a great start to a series written in the great tradition of epic fantasy. The framework is a bit different but I think the author made it work. I am very much looking forward to where this is going as an awful lot happened in this book already and there are four more to go.