In my ongoing quest to read everything M.C.A. Hogarth has written about the Eldritch, the last in my most recent spree was Even the Wingless. Having struck up by this point a conversation about my interest with the author on Twitter, she warned me that this particular book was going to be darker than the rest. I assured her that I was not worried, and still excited to read about the Eldritch in a different scenario—especially with the knowledge that Lisinthir wasn’t like the rest of his race.
That was all very much an understatement.
Lisinthir throws everything we think about Eldritch culture and flips it on its head. While there are very distinct differences, the parts that make him different stem from the similarities: he is headstrong, self-assured, determined, and focused. He is a stern fighter and not one willing to give up, or bow to needless niceties. His task is his task, and he will do what it takes to accomplish it.
No matter what.
Watching the violent spiral that is the Chatcaavan Empire intertwined with someone like an Eldritch is jarring, to say the least. Hogarth wasn’t kidding when she warned me that this was some of the darkest of her writing. It does, however, prove a depth to her writing ability that I was welcome to see – though what context it came in was saddening. Yes, I cringed at some of the scenes, but it was tempered so much by being able to see into Lisinthir’s thoughts—to see his passion and dedication, to see how he worked through the trials and tribulations to come out the other side. He quickly grew to sit right alongside Hirianthial and Jahir in my pantheon of adored Eldritch.
And then there were the Chatcaavans. Only spoken of in song and tale in the books before, it was dramatic to finally have a proper introduction to the bogeymen of the Pelted universe. Vicious, cruel, and impulsive, the Chatcaavans are so very much a foil to the Eldritch that it is difficult to not be just as drawn to them. With the power dynamic balance between what is seen with the Emperor and what is seen with the Slave Queen, there is so much depth that Lisinthir really only has the ability to touch the surface of, and yet we find little ways of delving in and learning so much in just a few words.
There are reference, small and scattered, throughout this that reference the other Eldritch we know: an offhanded reference to an Eldritch studying at an Alliance academy, mention of an Eldritch princess we would meet in Rose Point. For someone that has read these books already (or read after this, and I’m just writing this review late), it is an open offering to the rest of the books…and a warning that it may behoove an interested reader to peek into them, before the third book in the Her Instruments series tosses all the Eldritch together. (And that will be a book I am eager to see!)
All in all, a much darker book than the rest; not advisable for those who shy away from violence and cruel situations. But if you are up for the challenge, you will not be unrewarded.
Here is a link to the Kindle edition; it is also available in paperback and audiobook.