Larcout (Fire Born, Blood Blessed Book 1) by K.A. Krantz #SPFBO
Larcourt was my fourth book for the SPFBO. It’s a very unusual premise with a strange mix of characters and political intrigue taking the centre stage. I think this was a good book and I really liked the central character but it does become a little bogged down in the middle with so many characters being thrown into the mix and an awful lot of dialogue.
The book centres around a character called Vadrigyn. Vadrigyn lives amongst the Morsam, a strange race of non humans. With fire in their veins they are a race driven to conflict. Their natural inclination is to slaughter and destroy and for this they are imprisoned by the Gods on the island known as Agenworld where war is the only constant. Vadrigyn is of mixed race, her mother Ephinnia was a witch of the Jewelled Nation whose ability robs individuals of their free will simply by touch. She bewitched one of the Morsam and Vadrigyn was the result. That Vadrigyn has survived so long with not only the conflict within her own blood but also amongst such destructive creatures is a testament in itself and gives you an immediate idea of the tough streak that runs through her.
At the start of the story Vadrigyn is cast from Agenworld and thrust into the political world of Larcourt. A test by the Gods to see if she can rule her own mixed nature and pass the Trial of Identify. This is a little bit like going from the frying pan into the fire because whilst she may have escaped the harsh and cruel island she was raised on she is now thrust amongst a highly political city where the dangers are every bit as real – if not worse – for the fact that your would-be assassins wear smiles on their faces and would court your favour whilst stabbing you in the back! On top of this Vadrigyn’s mother is an outcast and hated by all Larcourtians – so as well as struggling to fit into society, learn about the magic she possesses, and not kill the people trying to help her by inadvertently touching them and causing their death, Vadrigyn must also try and uncover events from the past.
Vadrigyn is a great character. A natural warrior, bold and fearless, she also has natural gifts that enhance her ability and make her much more dangerous than a human could ever be. I couldn’t help liking her although she certainly isn’t a warm character there is something very endearing in her frank and open demeanour and the almost childlike naivete that lead her to speak her mind on occasions where she might be served better by holding her tongue. At the start of the story, when we first meet Vadrigyn I suspected that this was going to be a book where we were simply told how fearless and indestructible she was whilst witnessing events that belied the fact – but, I’m pleased to say I was wrong in that respect. Vadrigyn is undoubtedly a tough cookie – she hides many of her strengths once she enters Larcourt as she is very dangerous to all humans, with the ability to simply kill them by touch (I liked this – almost a strange play on her mother’s talent – one can compel by touch, one can kill). I think the one thing that did give me pause for thought was at first I wondered why she played along with events but having finished the book things do become a lot clearer. Yes, she could have wielded her own power much more destructively, she could have killed indiscriminately and basically she probably could have taken over Larcourt with ease but this is all part of the test.
I thought the world was equally fascinating and horrible. These people fancy themselves civilised and yet they behave as bad (if not worse) than the Morsam. The Morsam embrace their own ways, they revel in it and would probably bathe in the blood of their victims, laughing all the while. The Larcourtians hide behind a thin veneer of civility, they treat their women as little more than chattel, they use their magic to steel free will and they have some of the most detestably cruel ways. Oddly fascinating, compelling and annoying to read of.
The plot almost turns into a ‘whodunnit’ with Vadrigyn trying to uncover the truth from the past whilst others try to bury it – quite literally beneath the desert that surrounds the city.
I did enjoy this, it was intriguing, but I had some issues. The opening chapters were a riot of confusion. You do have to stick with it a little and just go with the flow because eventually things do clear up – unfortunately, just as you’re getting to grips with one culture you find yourself plucked out of that setting and dumped into another, much more complicated one. Obviously the start of the book is the backdrop to Vadrigyn’s nature and I understand what the author is trying to do – it’s just a little over complicated and sometimes difficult to envision.
I think Vadrigyn’s introduction at court becomes very long winded and a little bit tedious to read about with countless characters, factions, family obligations and different forms of magic. I would have preferred it if these things had been left to develop a little more naturally as the book progressed. As it is it felt a little bit like cramming for a history exam which detracted from the enjoyment of reading. There was also quite a lot of dialogue which just felt clunky somehow.
I have to confess though – I loved this main character and in fact she is, for me, the saviour of the story. I think this could benefit from a little culling, some more refinement in terms of dialogue and a little bit of honing to keep the plot more focused but it’s still a good read, an unusual world and a compelling political intrigue.