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Soleri: A Novel Hardcover – June 13, 2017
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"Soleri is bloody and utterly epic. A huge saga in a rich and deeply original world.” ―Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author
“Prepare to be ensnared in a web of ruthless politics and unbridled ambition, where even the authority of the emperor may be based on an ancient deception. Johnston builds an immersive world with elements of Egyptian and Roman history, myth, and religion. This story seethes with twists and turns, betrayals and secrets, and will keep you guessing until the very last page.” ―Cinda Williams Chima, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
MICHAEL JOHNSTON has always been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. He studied architecture and ancient history at Lehigh University and earned a master's degree in architecture from Columbia University. Michael worked as an architect in New York City before switching to writing full time. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.
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Characters are as well done as the world building is. You get a flavor of Egypt and of times long past. The sun is worshipped and there is intrigue as well as warfare. Kepi and Merit, sisters to Ren, have lives that tie in with the history of Soleri very well. I like that you are given much of that history as you turn the pages and it adds to the understanding of current plots and actions.
Soleri is well worth the read. If you like action, a good storyline and a well done world that is easy to see in your mind, this is the one you want to pick up next. Will Ren become king? Will someone succeed in killing him? Will Kepi avoid a disastrous marriage? Will their mother, Sarra, the high priestess of the sun god cult, help or hinder? Pages will turn. Sleep may be lost. But you are going to want the answers.
Let's start with the world. Soleri centers around the Soleri (huh, imagine that), godlike beings who rule over the land from behind a wall because no mortal can look upon them without dying. Much of this world has its traditions and faith revolving around the sun (at least at the heart of the empire) while the outlying kingdoms are each given their own special "thing" that sets them apart. And that's essentially how I felt much of the world-building went: create place, give it something special to use for the entire book to mark it as that place. Some of the descriptions were absolutely lovely and I look forward to more of that in the future from Johnston, but from a bigger picture, it was... lacking.
The same could be said about the characters. We follow the five members of one family as their lives are ripped apart from without and within as the empire falls to the machinations and life-changing discoveries of a few individuals. Once more, each character has their "thing," some personality trait, some flaw, that identifies them apart from the rest but I couldn't tell you much beyond that.
There's Ren, son of the Harkan king and now meant to take the throne as a young teen. His older sister, Merit, who has a whole lot of issues with the rest of her family. Ruthless, that one. Their sister, Kepi, who is the tomboy, rebellious princess. Arko, the Harkan king who isn't a great king and has a lot to think about in the many pages of this book. And then Sarra, the children's mother who left to become Mother Priestess. Big deal and all. I think I liked Merit the best, to be honest. She has put a lot of work into salvaging her kingdom and I felt like she deserved more than what she was given.
I tried to think of a comparison title for Soleri and struggled. Compared to some of the larger epic fantasies, it seems watered down, not afraid to show character brutality and deaths but written in a way that I didn't particularly care when those scenes happened.
The writing style wasn't captivating. I enjoyed some of the descriptions here and there, and at times I wanted to know more about a particular character but with the alternating perspectives I needed to read through a couple chapters to get back to that person. But I put this book down. Several times.
I'm not quite sure if I would recommend this book just yet. Will wait and see how the next book reads before making that call, to see if it's worth it. It wasn't bad though, and if you enjoy fantasy with a different spin than the usual medieval western Europe, give it a go!