'Trial of Sorcerers' by Elise Kova follows the story of Eira Landan, an elemental sorcerer called a Waterrunner, who grows up feeling like her older brother outshines her at every turn. Having accidentally killed a peer, her past plagues her constantly and her claims of magical whispers add to the belief that she's just crazy or flawed.
Unpopular with the other inhabitants of the Tower, when the opportunity to compete for a much coveted spot in the Tournament of Five Kingdoms emerges, she takes it.
Facing off against the best of her fellow sorcerers, Eira discovers that performing well in the trials has benefits of its own. Caught in a whirlwind of sudden attentions, she finds herself on the arm of the 'Prince of the Tower' in the Imperial Court, discovers a knack for secret.. forbidden magic, exploring mysterious tomes hidden away in unknown rooms, and rendezvousing discreetly with a charming elfin ambassador.
The book is beautiful and I found the synopsis intriguing, so of course.. I couldn't wait to read it.
Suggested by some to be a good read for fans of The Legend of Korra series, I surmise this is mostly due to the particular style of elemental magic structure.. which is akin to the elemental benders for water, earth, fire, and air. Other than that, I'm not really sure there's a huge correlation, but I've only sparingly seen episodes of Korra and Avatar.
While I'm not normally bothered with books that start out slowly, it's because what others deem slow is often just character or story development. I'm patient as long as the content is well put together and I don't need the writer to rush into action or drama for the sake of keeping my attention.
However, the first third of more of this book is not only slow, it's rather dull. The development is scattered and none of the characters give the reader (at least not me) enough to connect with. They lack any sense of charisma and are either whiny, rude, or so bland they're barely noticeable.
Now, where a writer with robust language skills can power through something like that, Kova either doesn't have them or willfully chose not to utilize them. I'm not sure which it is, as I find periodically I run across an author who seems to think that writing YA means they can't use big words or complex sentences and this is definitely a book that gives that impression. While the overall book structure is solid, the use of language reads like a writer who might be quite young. Obviously, none of that is true.. which begs the question.. is it intentional or not?
I know it might sound like I'm panning the book, but I'm not. As I said, there's nothing inherently wrong with the writing other than the fact that for me, the beginning was uninteresting. I continually put it down and had to make myself return to it.. up to around the midpoint of the story.
Once Kova reached the bulk of the plot, everything else started firing at once too. There was action and drama, yes.. but also, we finally started getting to really know some of the peripheral characters. That is to say.. those with the most depth.
When they started opening up and interacting more with the MC, they filled in a lot of the gaps that had left the story feeling empty. Honestly, from here to the end.. it just continued to build steadily. Sure, Eira was still whiny.. all the time.. but there were plenty of others to offset the lead with layers of their own.
By the end, I was thoroughly invested, emotionally wrecked, and ready for more. And ultimately, I think that's all I really want from a book.. so I'm eager for the sequel which isn't due out for a year.
If you are the kind of person who can grit your teeth through the beginning and hold out knowing there's interesting story ahead of you, give this one a shot. The reward was worth the wait. But if you have to be hooked quickly, you might want to skip this instead.
(I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)