Irjan is a retired hunter, living in anonymity as a farmer with his wife and newborn son. But when the local priest learns of Irjan’s notorious past and skills, he soon manipulates Irjan into doing his bidding. Forced once more to hunt the “Immortals”, Irjan is caught up in an impending war between the humans and immortals.
Review by Milliebot Reads
HARDCOVER, 444 PAGES
2018, NIGHT SHADE BOOKS
I requested a copy of this book because it sounded like a Nordic-inspired fantasy and that’s a subgenre I don’t read enough of. The atmosphere, character names and language influence delivered on that vibe. But what sets this story apart from others of its kind is the fluidity of the Immortals.
Irjan is a human, raised by Brethren of Hunters and trained to kill Jápmemeahttun, or Immortals. The Immortals are a somewhat gender fluid race. I’ll admit, there are a lot of tough to tackle terms in this book – Myers notes she draws influence from languages spoken in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – and I did not fully understand them all. But here’s what I gathered throughout the book:
Essentially, all babies are females. They’re raised by someone other than their birth mother, because after a female gives birth, she undergoes a transformation to male. From there, they may take on the role of caretaker for another child, or perhaps another job in the community like healer or warrior. Then, when they’ve grown old, a warrior will accompany a pregnant woman as she makes her journey and the warrior’s life force is given to create the life of the newborn. It’s all very cyclical and very much in the vein of reincarnation. I’ve never encountered anything like it!
That being said, it was hard to follow, as I mentioned. I really would have appreciated a glossary of terms, as the Immortals have various names for someone’s role within the community and those seem to be tied to their current stage of life. As none of the words Myers used (or created) were familiar to me, I struggled to grasp what the characters were explaining. Having a glossary would have helped a lot. A pronunciation guide wouldn’t have hurt either. I like to feel like I’m mentally saying a word correctly and I struggled through so many of the terms and names in this book because it was too distracting to try to puzzle out how I should pronounce them. Eventually, I just glossed over any of the words that were unfamiliar.
Speaking of glossing over – while I appreciate the unique spin Myers put on her story, the only chunk of the story that really grabbed me was the middle. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and there’s also a musical element that plays heavily into the book, which I didn’t enjoy. In hindsight, it makes sense, but I didn’t know the title would play so literally into the book. If you enjoy reading songs in your books, you’ll probably really like this bit – it’s a large part of the story. For me, it just doesn’t work; I even skip the songs in The Hobbit, which is one of my favorite books!
I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the book, but I pushed on because I was intrigued by the concept and I wanted to know more about this changing race of Immortals. The middle picked up and had some action. The end had a fair bit of action, but I checked out by then. I lost interest in the characters and the plot. It ended on a cliffhanger, but I won’t be continuing on with the series.
While I was interested in the overall plot and world-building, nothing in the book really hooked me. It was a very slow burn and the main character didn’t elicit any empathy or even distaste from me. I appreciate what Myers accomplished, but it didn’t end up being my cup of tea.
However, if you’re interested in a Nordic-inspired fantasy with a heavy dose of music and gender fluid characters, I would recommend you check this out.
Thank you to Night Shade Books for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my honest review.