Disclosure: I received this book in advance and without cost in exchange for an honest review. Counter-disclosure: I already pay for KU, so I would have been able to read it for 'free' anyway.
Initially, the premise of this book seemed super intense. Lightblades obviously give you some Star Wars vibes, the magic system is focused around different wavelengths of light, which gives me Lightbringer vibes, and then the focus on dreams, time-dilation, and the existential question "Is this the real world" combine Inception and the Matrix. Luckily for me, I like all of those things, so I tore through this book.
Without spoilers, the premise is simple. Jyosh, our effectively enslaved MC, wants to kill the Emperor. After all, the guy had his family all murdered, and shipped him off to the work camps. To try and achieve his goal, Jyosh swaps out his government-given dream stone, with a bootlegged stone with a lightblade training program on it, with its own more advanced, sentient training AI. Let's just say that things don't go as planned.
This is a frustrating review to write, because one of the best things about this book is that you don't know where its going, you don't expect the twists and turns, and I can't talk about really anything without giving away something, and I don't want to ruin the experience for anyone else. So, let me just make a list and hope that its useful.
- Inventive take on established mechanisms like time dilation, dream layers, and light as a magic system.
- Fantastical dreamscapes and a thoughtful, fleshed out but foreign fantasy world.
- Many twists and turns.
- In terms of relatability, the characters don't feel too deep. Jyosh has such a simple and obvious motivation, its hard to dive deeper into his character, and he's the only perspective we get.
The Maybe Could Be Better?
Look at how diplomatic that heading is.
- The concept of time-dilation in dreams means that Jyosh, as a brand new beginner, is fighting people with years, decades, or even centuries of combat experience. Somehow Jyosh wins these conflicts, and it feels like plot armour.
- It's always good when the big reveals are foreshadowed and when it happens, everything clicks together. For anyone thats up to date with Cradle, you get this. Or Vader in Star Wars. All the foreshadowing makes sense, and you think "Damn, I knew it!" or "Damn, I should have seen that coming." There are two big reveals in this book, but I didn't think either of those two sentences, I thought "Damn, I wish there was some more buildup or foreshadowing to make this more impactful."
The big, shining caveat to the above is that perhaps there were hints about these reveals, but either they passed over my head, or I just wasn't quite smart enough to figure it out.
They are good reveals though, and I am definitely curious how the twists will impact Jyosh's journey in the next book. This was a fun read, and if you liked either Inception or The Matrix, give this one a read.