A strange darkness grows in Allward.
Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.
I didn’t know what to expect going into Realm Breaker, as I’m probably the only person in my friend group and possibly in the world who hasn’t read Victoria Aveyard before – a mistake I will soon remedy, I promise – but I can say this: If you like fantasy, this is the book for you. And I’m not even quantifying that. Fantasy lovers in general are sure to find something to enjoy in the new series from the author of Red Queen.
As a reader, I prefer to stick more with low fantasy than high fantasy, which means that this might have been a book I overlooked if I hadn’t signed up to review it. My preference is always slanted towards more character-driven books, and I have even been known to forgive plot issues if the characters are compelling enough for me.
There are no plot issues to forgive in Realm Breaker, a very-well plotted book that nonetheless manages to strike the rare balance of also gifting us with compelling characters. From Corayne an-Amarat, our heroine, to the band of misfits that end up gathering around her, there’s bound to be at least one character that doesn’t just interest you, but touches you. This is a particularly hard thing to do when there are so many characters in a book, and even harder to do while establishing compelling dynamics between those characters. And yet here we are.
For someone who isn’t a typical high fantasy reader, this might seem like a long book, and it does take a little bit to get into it if you’re not truly used to the genre, but the plot is interesting enough to take you to where the characters take over, and then, when the characters seem like they need more to totally hook you, the dynamics between those characters take over, and you are absolutely gone. You can’t stop reading.
The dynamics, in particular, are super interesting, because as much as we all love a good team-as-family story, the best ones don’t truly start out that way, and this one really doesn’t. Instead you have a very confusing mix of characters who should be enemies – and in some cases remain so – but need to be allies, and who don’t actually get along or like each other that much. In fact, I’d even argue that these people mostly don’t care about saving the world, and they certainly don’t care about saving each other. All their care is about what’s best for them.
Our main character, Corayne, in particular, is set up not as someone eager to save the world, but as someone eager to see the world, to get away. We can all relate to parents being overprotective, and Corayne’s mother is that, but she’s also a hypocrite, considering she’s basically a pirate but her daughter needs to stay on land, and safe. “Safe” being a very relative term considering the second she wanders out alone she’s met with an grumpy immortal who was friends with the father she never knew, and who needs her, of all people, to save the realm.
Which, in the end, speaks to what makes this book exceptional. For every twist it delivers, for every trope it turns on its head, it truly takes you on a journey where you, for a moment or five, believe that you know what’s coming. You’ve seen a character like this one before, you know the beats. You understand them. And yet you never truly do, not the way you think so. The author is always one step ahead, which is always a delightful thing to realize in the middle of a book.
The crew of misfits at the center of this book doesn’t always make the right decisions. They don’t always have the best intentions. And there are times when you might want to throw a book at a wall, that’s how silly some of the decisions they make seem. But you never want to stop engaging with them, you never want to leave them to their own devices. Even when you’re mad, you’re invested. You’re seeing this thing through to the end.
We all have a favorite from this ragtag group, of course, and I will admit to having a little bit of a soft spot for the morally grey queen, and the stoic and yet actually mostly soft character. But everyone gets a moment to shine, or at least a moment to make you question your allegiance to just one character. It isn’t possible to like them all the best, but there are times where you might feel like you do.
I particularly want to take a moment to talk about worldbuilding, which isn’t always something that takes me out of a book, but it ends up being someone that can bring me into a world, make me invest more. The level of thought and care put into the worldbuilding in this book is exceptional and Allward feels like a real place, even if you might not recognize how it looks.
But if there’s one reason to give this book a try, it’s this one: the book is fun. Not light, not easy, no, but fun. And we could all use a fun book that makes us think a little, couldn’t we? And if that’s not enough, let me leave you with this quote, mostly because it hasn’t left me since I first read it. Tell me you don’t want to try the book after it:
“There are breakers of castles, breakers of chains, breakers of kings and kingdoms.”
“Which am I?”
“You are a realm breaker. You would crack this world apart and build an empire from its ruins
When is the next one coming? Because if the answer isn’t tomorrow, then the wait is already too long for me to bear.
Realm Breaker is available today whenever books are sold.