Author: Susan Stradiotto
A murdered empress. A missing emperor. Mairynne Evangale called them Mother, Father.
The country mourns while rumors of unrest stir. The sorcery castes struggle for power, and the casteless riot in the streets. Conflict hadn’t escalated this rapidly in Nantai since the Ryū Wars more than five ages past.
The people need a new imperial leader. Mairynne’s soul yearns for many things, but she never wished for the duty her Father assigned.
She carries two soul stones, one cold and the other hot. They came to her with the loss of each parent. They call to her, beckoning her to leave home. They reinforce her convictions . . . Her father lives. He will return to his seat upon the Serpentine Throne.
But first, she must answer the call.
Call of the Story Sorcerer is the first novel in the Serpentine Throne series. There is a nice mix of magic and mystery in this story and I feel this series has amazing potential. This novel is a lot shorter than most others of the same genre and does a great job setting up the plot and an introduction to the characters that will play a role in the future novels. I did walk away still a little confused about the world-building with the castes and magic, but I figured this could be intentional and the missing pieces would be filled in during the later novels. Even with some unanswered questions, the story is easy enough to understand and enjoy.
Mairynne Evangale is a princess of the Konō (an emperor of Nantai) and the youngest of three sisters. After her mother died, her father disappeared soon after. Although she is not the oldest, laws in Nantai allow for the ruler to designate their successors and Mairynne was deemed the next in line. The main part of the story begins with her preparing to ascend the throne. Not only does she not feel ready to rule, she also does not want to take the throne away from her father as she believes that he is still alive. She struggles with the expectations for her to quickly ascend the throne and her belief that there is no need to take the throne if her father is still alive to rightfully claim it.
This story involves some star-crossed lovers, although it doesn’t explore this part of the story in detail. I am hopeful that this storyline gets more depth and detail in the next novel in the series. Thalaj is the first guard and as someone not from the upper classes, he cannot be with the princess (soon to be Konō). While it is obvious that the two of them like each other, I did not feel connected to their angst as it was more or less told to me compared to me seeing it play out on the page. Again, I am hopeful that Thalaj’s character will be explained more as he was there and I felt he had potential, but I just did not feel connected to him.
I think as part of the entire series, the pacing makes sense, but just based on this novel alone, it is very slow. I got through over halfway before it felt like anything happened and I was finally drawn into the story. It was an interesting contrast to the intense opening prologue where there is a sense of urgency with the historical moments. The opener drops the reader right in the middle of the action without context and the reader gets to try and put the pieces together. It felt like a movie, in a way, where it starts right away, then the credits, and then the story resets to take you to the main story where the opener will be tied in later.
Overall, this is a captivating read as the reader moves through the world-building and character introductions to get to the story. I will admit that I had some difficulty keeping the characters straight in my head as there were a lot of them. However, the important ones appear multiple times and soon the reader figures out which ones to focus on. The terminology used is also a little overwhelming as the reader typically needs to piece it together in context rather than exposition. Depending on the reader’s style, this could be determined either a positive or a negative. For me, I did not mind it, but it did require more thinking on my part than I thought I would need to do. Once the plot picked up, then I did not care whether I fully understood every detail and instead became anxious for the adventure to begin. I am very curious to see what happens in the next novel as this one showed potential for a fantastic series!
**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Bronzewood Books, for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**