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    Excellent and interesting fantasy

    I got this book because I wanted to read some of Marling's work and it seemed a good starting point. I downloaded it at the same time as a lot of other works, intending just to skim the first chapter of each and then decide which one I was going to read. I read the first part of this novel and I was hooked. The story unfolds really well and there is real suspense. The writing is a joy to read and the descriptions of the world are really evocative. The story revolves around Elder Enchantress Hiresha who having become a powerful practitioner of magic is requested to return to her home town. There she quickly realises that something is very wrong - all the women are pregnant, and all are due around the same time. Clearly this is not normal, but what is the cause and why has it happened? Hiresha must unravel the threads to work out what is going on and exactly what the threat to the town is. Perhaps the pregnancies are the divine work of a god, but for what purpose? Or perhaps the dark Lord of the Feast is involved so that he may dine on the fears of the population in the night? Hiresha must find the truth - and quickly - and along the way she will make both questionable alliances and bitter enemies. But who can really be trusted when the fate of the city is at stake? The world is immersive, and Marling does well to convey just enough information to ensure the reader is not overwhelmed by some of the stranger aspects of his world. I have read other (more well known) authors who struggle in this regard. The characterisations are good, particularly impressive is Hiresha who despite her mastery of magic is very human, with many faults and failings which she must overcome during the course of the story. The supporting characters are also well drawn and have a depth. There is a real impression that they are leading their own lives outside of the story. The story itself is mainly a fantasy 'whodunnit' with Hiresha gathering evidence and suspects, as well has finding out exactly what the pregnancies entail. The main twist is that she suffers from a form of narcolepsy and finds it hard to keep awake - and when awake she is not very perceptive. But when sleeps she is able to perform her magic and analyse what she has seen while awake. Once the culprit is revealed, the ending is hard to put down as Hiresha has put herself - and possibly the whole town - in grave danger in order to find out the truth. The final part of the story is a breathtaking battle as powerful forces fight over the fate of the town. I really could not stop reading this book. I looked forward to picking it up and was reluctant to put it down. The story is really very compelling and despite having a lot of swords and sorcery in it, this does not fall into any of the well trodden paths of fantasy. The writing moves the story on at a good pace and is full of fantastic descriptions and little details that really bring the world alive. I rate this book very highly. I know it is only January but already I feel that this is easily one of the best books I will read this year. Very highly recommended.

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