I really didn’t enjoy about the first third of this book. We get shifting POVs in an unknown fantasy world with unknown magics (and two of them, the smuggler Jovis and the Emperor’s daughter Lin) kept confusing me because their voices were so similar.
In this story we get a world of floating islands. There’s a reclusive Emperor shut up on his Imperial isle creating constructs– magic animated chimera sewn together with different animal parts. His daughter, Lin and his foster-son Bayan scurry along the halls with keys to different doors within the palace trying to learn enough about the constructs to please the Emperor.
The making of those constructs slowly becomes apparent to the reader as a horrible, tragic awful thing done in the name of “defense” against the magics of a long-vanquished (Alanga) race.
Meanwhile, there’s the daughter of a governor on another isle who is in love with a girl who is part of the resistance– the Shardless Few who are trying to overthrow the Emperor and set all citizens free of his tyranny. (Their whole story didn’t add enough for me and I think should have been told through the eyes of Jovis who was ten times more interesting and definitely more intriguing especially once he acquires the mysterious “pet” Mephi).
And then there’s also Jovis, a smuggler who is also in search of a mysterious blue ship that took away his wife many years ago. He is on an island that sinks and amongst the wreckage acquires a small swimming kitten-like creature who is much more than he seems.
When the storylines start to converge, and the Emperor’s secrets are uncovered by Lin, finally this book hits its pace. All of a sudden I no longer was bored and skimming, although the problem of the similarity of Linn/Jovis remained, alot of the hand to hand combat involved people “setting their teeth” onto a shoulder or ankle, and wondering how yet another POV (a woman named “sand” on another island coming out of a foag and questioning her life) fit into the story.
So while it doesn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger, the ending does leave a bunch of unanswered questions hanging in the air as well as sets up Jovis/Mephi for a quest at the most interesting point in their relationship. So despite considering a 3 at the start of the book, I probably would go on to read the second book just because of the Jovis/Mephi POV. I just wish the author and spent more time with the and less with the goveernor daughter/rebel.
The floating islands, names, and small details evoked more Asian/pacific islander culture although not overly so– I think more of that would have also made the earlier part of the book interesting.