“The young read the world around them like a book, easily led by the words on the pages. But wisdom isn’t gleaned from reading nor bequeathed by the passage of time. Wisdom is the discovery of the words omitted. The Truth is this wisdom, the discoveries of many generations recorded to help those who follow its teachings avoid the tribulations of their forebears. With the Truth in the Council’s hands, the people of the Lost Land will never again suffer the scourge of tyranny.”
Birthrights. The first installation in the ‘Revisions to the Truth’ series is one brilliant debut novel. A promising start to a four-part epic fantasy series, Mr. McNeal weaves a tale which engrosses its reader throughout the book and keeps them engaged and wanting to know what lies in store at the next step, what has fate (or he, the author) decided for the characters at the next checkpoint.
I believe it is going to take the form of a saga. There are lots of characters in the story, both major and minor characters are showcased as a point of reference at some point in the story and they all get their own screen time, I mean POVs. With so many POVs, it gets a little difficult to keep up with who is who and so, I wrote down the names and important points about the characters (Silly old me always has trouble with remembering names in series with many important characters, so she devised this little method to help herself get into the story more quickly). Multiple POVs, if not handled properly, saps the energy and the lucidity of the story but McNeal has done it carefully and beautifully. You do not lose the flow or have to flip back and forth (very little of that) to see what happened with the character the last time we read about him or her. There are also backstories to some of the older charcaters and also histories and studies of the origins of various faiths, religions and beliefs, which offers this series a stable foundation.
Since we get to taste myriad perspectives, glimpse various sides to the same story through the experiences of various characters, we will get attached to them and will care for them. The characters are complex, even the character development is complex, that is what makes this book a wonderful read. Nobody is wholly good, no one is totally bad, everybody has their own share of vices and virtues. I can hear Sirius Black’s words echo, “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” Our primary main characters, Whym and Quint, their character development is what I have most enjoyed. Both see opportunities in previously rejected paths when they need to devise new solutions to existing problems. That is one thing that I liked the most about them. I also admire Kira (and Nikla too), that she emerges a strong girl after what happens to her (read the book to find out what happens, fellow reader); “You can become someone new; you can never become yourself. – Truth (Ministrations 1:4)” clearly elucidates her transformation. Stern and Kutan, Kutan and Whym, oh, there are some ships to be shipped there, alright. I also like Cyrus, the better half of the twins and that he has some redeeming feelings than his cruel elder brother Tyrus. One also feels sad (only a few times) for the First Lord, Artis Fen, when we read of his younger days. As I said, all gray emotions, all gray characters, though some show kindness or cruelty to more greater extent than the rest. There are many more characters to be talked about, many more perspectives to be shared but I will hold off until you all read it. Also, where’s the fun in giving you all all the spoilers?
But there are deaths too. Brace yourself for that. Beliefs will be questioned and faith interrogated. Politics, betrayals, misunderstandings, heartbreak, all these humanly games and other such humanly emotions, feelings and flaws, will be at play. You will see these themes unravel. There is magic too, alright, you fantasy nerd. (I am guilty of that too, I admit it.)
“When cracks form beneath your feet, it’s too late to stay on the ice. This is the position in which we find ourselves. We must charge forward to outpace the fracturing support.” Here, Truth is what people believe in, it is what they fight for. But with corruption bordering so close and thick to the precipice, cracks have appeared in Truth. It does depict the state of the world we inhabit. Afterall, fiction mirrors reality and serves as a guide to humanity, does it not? “The Truth is a book, but real truth depends on your perspective.”
And the setting? It’s not elves, goblins, orcs or dwarves but seven different races, of which Man is one. There are the Stewards, the Faeries, the Tungresh. It’s a beautiful world, trust me. You get Jah, Allyrian, the Vinlands, the Wildes, the Fringe, Blight and much more. So, fancy names alongwith detailed locations and background stories, check. And does Shadow seem an ominous fitting name for the mastermind behind curtains? It does have a ring to it. And is the title of the story justified? I believe so, yes. Whym fights to not be the next Rat Man while Quint resists to not follow his father’s footsteps, to not be the next in line to lead the Allyrians. Also, isn’t Truth a fundamental birthright? Ding, ding, ding.
“History begets myth when the passage of time blurs the edges of truth. – Excerpt from ‘The Rise and Fall of Magic’- The Faerie Histories.”
I think I can safely say that this book is soon going to be a hit. Fandoms will be set up and people are going to rave about it. It’s going to be the next big thing! Such a promising work! So, the most important question of all. Do I recommend it to fantasy readers, bookworms looking for an adventurous read and plenty of ‘food-for-thought’s? Yes, absolutely. (And that is saying something, coming from a scrutinous fantasy reader, one who has high standards, all thanks to LOTR and the likes) And am I going to buy a physical copy of it? Definitely. (This is the testament that you are looking for, is it not?) As soon as it is available in India, I am. Really, who wouldn’t want to, with all those wonderful illustrations and maps? Also, I eagerly await to read the second book, ‘Broken Oaths’ which will be published in 2018.
“We look in the same direction, yet see something different. Imagine what strangers might see.”
Cheers to the start of a new epic fantasy series! We all are in for a treat. Happy reading!
P.S. I was provided with an eARC of Birthrights in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.