Top critical review
Tragic really, I had hoped for a good read - slight spoilers
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2019
My book-mark is at just about halfway through this book, and I can't find the energy to care. On one hand, there is a "world" being developed in which the characters move and act. This world is described vaguely but is always infinitely distant and mysterious. In addition, there is nothing pleasant about it, and there is an ever-present directionless dark threat that is never identified and endlessly hinted at; some ancient occurrence that colors the whole world that none of the characters care about. Everything is dark and dirty, but not engaging; at every page I am hoping to turn a corner and see something worth seeing. There are an endless string of "places" where "something happens, but no place is vivid or significant. To use a comparison, In Harry Potter, the first-years always ride across the water in boats to get to Hogwarts their first year. So the place and the event are steeped in tradition and meaning. It takes very little to help us SEE the world and be engaged.
On the other hand, all of the characters are utterly unlikable and uninteresting. The antagonist is mean-spirited and selfish, and there is no sense, ever, that this bad attitude is something to overcome or set right. The prince is flat and boring, his family is nasty, or threatening, or stupid. <<spoiler>> At one point, the prince is captured, and... who cares? We are given no reason to like him, or to feel for his plight, his family doesn't care, why should we? The "big event" at which he is captured has no significance to the reader. Oh yes, we are TOLD that it is important, but we have no idea why. No history, no context, it just happens. Then, the antagonist only wants to rescue him because she is sworn to protect him; something she ONLY did, against her will, because the prince had saved her from herself earlier in the timeline. <<End of spoiler>> The biggest problem with this book, for the first half, is that there is no hero, or heroine, to draw the reader into the story.
There is epic good versus evil, sort of, but we don't know enough about why the evil exists to care. This evil is one dimensional, and the evil characters let you know it; "we are evil so we have the right and the power to kill you!" Which they do, inexplicably. Yawn. And the "good" characters, the "sunshine" characters are super powerful, but petty, salacious and indifferent. They "get on board" to rescue the prince because they have no choice, so there is no nobility or purpose or destiny.
And finally, rather than describing what is going on, or what the power is, or, again, why we should care, just throw the word "rune" in front of anything to indicate, "yes, it has the word 'rune' in front, you should consider it important." We don't know what a "rune wall" does, but the word rune is in front. A "rune sword?" Same thing, trust me, the fact that the word "rune" is there means it is better or different from another sword. Can't you tell? The word "rune" is used.
I bought this book in high hopes that I could find another fantasy series to read and I am sad to say that I won't even be able to finish it. Obviously this assessment of this book is only my opinion, I hope that other people like this story, and I would be happy to have my mind changed if someone else sees this book through different eyes.