Getting this out of the way right now: the cover is kind of weird and doesn't suit the novel very well, nor is the title really well suited to the story being told. Okay, now that the judging a book by it's cover is done, onward.
This book was... entertaining, but didn't function terribly well on any greater level of engagement. It's like... Kingdom Politics Lite. I don't entirely understand the means of governance of Theoria... despite the fact that the novel ostensibly focuses on politics of the country, it was mostly superficial glamour the grossly underestimates the complexity of managing a country. So that challenged my suspension of disbelief a bit. (Yes, inadequate governance systems stretch my ability to suspend my disbelief, but dragons don't. The human brain is weird.) Moving on.
I feel like I never quite got a handle on Sepora as a character... or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I didn't really connect with her. A lot of her decisions didn't make much sense to me.... and I found it really hard to believe that some of the things she suggested hadn't, you know, been suggested before...? She's impulsive in the extreme, but it seems to work for her, if only because of narrative convenience. I feel like I understood Tarik at the beginning of the book... but I actually lost any grasp I might have had on his character by the middle of the novel.
Something that was kind of interesting to me was the parallels with and references to Egyptian and Greek mythology. I'm not sure how much of that was intentional, but I assume at least some of it must have been. Ones I caught:
- Nemesis is the Greek goddess of revenge. I'm fairly sure they intended the more colloquial meaning of nemesis, though
- Set(h) is the name of the Egyptian god who cut out Horus's (a.k.a. god-king/pharaoh, falcon-headed deity) eye. (Maybe. Depending on what version of the myth you listen to.) I'm not saying direct parallels, but there are... certain thematic similarities.
- obviously the pyramids and some of the more basic characteristics of Theoria were inspired by ancient Egypt
The plot was a bit scattered... they often felt like they only happened because it was convenient. Also surely, surely there was a way for Sepora to secretly provide spectorium without telling everyone she was a Forger?
Overall, I feel like the book had a fairly strong concept, but didn't deliver well on a lot of fronts for me. I am curious about how the story ends, however, and will likely be picking up the second half of the duology.