The ancient country of Aven has been the victim of its Dictator for decades. When he dies of a chronic illness, the capitol city and the entire country is thrown into chaos. Those who were exiled under the previous regime flock to the capitol. Politicians scramble to capture power. Enemy countries make plans to attack. The lives of a trio of sisters and their historic family are turned upside down.
I was excited to be sent a copy of From Unseen Fire. I'd seen it marketed on Twitter by the author and a number of different book marketing companies. The cover looked fascinating and once I read of the summary, I knew I had to read it. As I've mentioned in a few previous blog posts, I studied Latin for many years and, since this book appeared to be based in Rome or a similar setting, I was excited to learn more.
I wasn't far off in my initial guess of the setting. While the city isn't exactly Rome, there are strong elements of Roman and Latin culture sprinkled throughout, including togas, the republic political structure, furniture and religion. It is implied that the city of Aven exists in an alternate world in which Remus (rather than his brother Romulus) founded the city. Regardless, I enjoyed the explored and learning more about the setting. It was an exciting change of scenery from many of the urban or medieval fantasy stories I've read so far this year.
The plot of this novel was complex and detailed, if this wasn't clear from my summary in the first paragraph. There are at least five moving pieces of the plot, all equally important and interconnected. As is the case in any novel with multiple story lines, I was more interested in some character's point of views than others. The plot I found most compelling was of Latona, a mage of Fire and Spirit, from the prominent Vitalliae family, who fights the expectations put on her by her society, her family and her husband.
The cast of character is absolutely immense. The first couple of pages of the book have a detailed directory of characters. While it was important and ultimately helpful as I went through the story, I was exhausted reading through the summary of the families and characters within them. I often times wondered if many of the characters could be cut out or combined to help the flow of the story and make things easier of the reader, but with such a complicated plot, each character does become necessary so it's difficult to say who I would get rid of. Instead of negative aspect of the book, I think it's more of a warning to any readers who are more interested in light or leisurely reading.
Fans of Game of Thrones and myths, will love From Unseen Fire. The first book of the upcoming Aven cycle is a complex and compelling story. The setting is unique and fun, plus readers who are have studies Roman culture will get a kick out of many of the references. There is a large, somewhat daunting cast of characters, but the author does a good job of making sure they're all necessary and relevant to the plot.