This is the first book of a fantasy series that chronicles a dying empire’s Jaguar Knight trying to save his country while being invaded on several fronts. Machek, the Jaguar Knight, is our protagonist, and he has the duty to protect his empire. He has a lot of important decisions to make with pressure from several people who have different objectives. I find him interesting, as his character is a shade of gray, not black or white. He has some demons and isn’t your perfect hero. The Serpent King is one of the invaders who appears to be extremely powerful. He has a very interesting background which is quite surprising. He has a motivation that’s understandable, so I felt like some part of him is good. Gishwan and Ri are an interesting pair, the student and the teacher. The student is a bit naive, while the teacher has ulterior motives. Acatel is a very brutal character, but he also has a believable motivation for his actions. He is an antagonist, but I feel like his people’s culture makes him that way. The characters in this book are three dimensional and well-done.
The world, called the One World, has a somewhat Aztec feeling to it, yet it is also fairly original. The cultures and religions are very well-developed, as well as the history. In any fantasy that creates a new world, world building is a very important aspect of the story, and one which I find intriguing. This world is very well-done.
There is a lot of violence and rape in this book, which can put some people off reading it. However, war is violent and not very pretty. It doesn’t bother me if there’s violence or sex in a book, just as long as it’s realistic and natural sounding. I did wonder about the amount of death at the hands of the invading people, though. Overall, the character behaviour is good, but I felt at times that too strongly emotional. I also am not sure about Gishwan’s motivations and reasons for her behaviour. Maybe that’s answered in the second book.
Overall, I’d give this a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a great start to an epic story in a well thought out world. I just wonder if it’ll be in print again in the future. It is highly recommended.