Review: The Godstone – Violette Malan

Review: The Godstone – Violette MalanThe Godstone
by Violette Malan
Publisher: Daw Books
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

This new epic fantasy series begins a tale of magic and danger, as a healer finds herself pulled deeper into a web of secrets and hazardous magic that could bring about the end of the world as she knows it.

Fenra Lowens has been a working Practitioner, using the magic of healing ever since she graduated from the White Court and left the City to live in the Outer Modes. When one of her patients, Arlyn Albainil, is summoned to the City to execute the final testament of a distant cousin, she agrees to help him. Arlyn suspects the White Court wants to access his cousin's Practitioner's vault. Arlyn can't ignore the summons: he knows the vault holds an artifact so dangerous he can't allow it to be freed.

Fenra quickly figures out that there is no cousin, that Arlyn himself is the missing Practitioner, the legendary Xandra Albainil, rumored to have made a Godstone with which he once almost destroyed the world. Sealing away the Godstone left Arlyn powerless and ill, and he needs Fenra to help him deal with the possibly sentient artifact before someone else finds and uses it.

Along the way they encounter Elvanyn Karamisk, an old friend whom Arlyn once betrayed. Convinced that Arlyn has not changed, and intends to use Fenra to recover the Godstone and with it all his power, Elvanyn joins them to keep Fenra safe and help her destroy the artifact.

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Content notes: View Spoiler »

An epic fantasy with an artifact with world-ending ramifications sounds right up my alley.. except this didn’t quite work out for me.

“I am thinking how much I could have learned from you over the years of our acquaintance if I had known who and what you were.”
He went still as a statue for a long moment before answering. “You might have learned how to be so sure of yourself that you endangered the whole world.”

Practitioner Fenra has been happy living in a village in an outer Mode, far from the City and the political machinations of the White Court. When it becomes clear that Arlyn, one of her patients, intends to travel back to the City to investigate the death of a relative, she agrees to accompany him. But Arlyn hasn’t told her everything, and their arrival in the City sets off a string of events that could end in the destruction of the world.

The character development was excellent. Each character seems quite simple at first: a village woodcarver with a strange illness (Arlyn), a simple village healer (Fenra), and a gunslinger (Elva). But as the book progresses, more layers are revealed through their actions and their internal monologues, as there are first-person POVs from the three main characters as well as the bad guy. To be honest, I wish it hadn’t been spoiled in the synopsis that Arlyn and Xandra are the same person – somewhat. Arlyn swears – and Fenra’s inclined to believe – that he’s a different person now, but Elva has his doubts. And frankly, Xandra isn’t someone I would’ve wanted to meet. In fact, Practitioner Metenari, the guy who forged the documents to summon Arlyn back to the city, shares more than a few traits with Xandra (something Elva isn’t hesitant to point out), including his belief in his own superiority. In contrast, Fenra, the healer who only wanted a quiet life, was my favorite, and honestly the only reason I kept reading the book at some points.

The book is definitely of the “throw you in head-first” school of worldbuilding. Normally this is something I enjoy, but it felt like my confusion lasted for too long with this book over even frequently repeated words like forran. Once I started to understand it, though, the world building grew on me. The idea of Modes – technologically separate areas that Practioners can see the changes to as they travel through but “mundanes” cannot – was absolutely fascinating, and I would’ve liked to have read more about them. Though the magic system remains consistent, each practitioner has a slightly different way of doing things, and I loved that Fenra’s focus on healing infused her whole magical practice.

“Take your time,” I said to Fenra, meaning every word. “Be sure you’re ready. We only have to save the world.”

While I liked the character development and the world-building, where the book fell flat for me was in the pacing and plot. The pacing started out slow and stayed that way. Even with the possible destruction of the world is on the line, the pacing never picked up. And while there was plenty of action, the plot felt like it plodded along as well. It took me a while to get into the book, and then I was never quite hooked. And then all of a sudden, bam, there’s the end of the book. I liked some of the themes – like Fenra’s insistence on what’s important, even when the world is at stake – but it’s a bit lost in the rest of the book.

Overall, despite my love for Fenra and the magical system, the pacing greatly affected my enjoyment of the book. Cautiously recommended for fantasy lovers who don’t mind a slow pace.

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