ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Goddess War (Book #1 of 3)
Pages: 496 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 23rd April 2020 by Orbit (UK) & 21st April 2020 by Orbit (US)
Atmospheric, slow-paced, and well-written, but I have mixed feelings.
I haven’t read the series, but I’ve heard many great things about Jon Skovron’s Empire of Storms trilogy. When I saw that Skovron’s newest book, The Ranger of Marzanna, is a Russian inspired fantasy that has Magali Villleneuve as the cover artist—look at that cover art, it’s stunning—I immediately put this book on my radar. The result of the content, however, isn’t as likable as I hoped. I’ll keep this review briefer than usual; there were several factors that I enjoyed reading and parts that didn’t work for me in almost equal measure.
The Ranger of Marzanna follows the tale of two siblings that finds themselves fighting for a different side. Sonya is training to be a Ranger of Marzanna, and she’s fighting for Marzanna—her goddess of winter and death. Her brother Sebastian, on the other hand, is a powerful sorcerer fighting for the invading empire that Sonya hates. These two characters are probably the biggest reason why this book didn’t work for me. Not only they’re not likable, but I also found their motivations for their actions throughout the book aren’t too well fleshed out. Sonya—as someone who’s training to be a Ranger of Marzanna—tends to constantly switch between happy-go-lucky to an instant killing mode done based on being very emotional and ridiculously rash. The goddess she’s fighting for doesn’t seem to bring any joy but suffering for her devotee. Also, at the beginning of the book, Sonya and Sebastian had their father killed, Sebastian ends up joining the killer side. Why? Because the killer appreciates his talent for magic, and Sebastian was never close with his father anyway. This is such a stupid reason, even for a kid. These two main characters needed more exposition and characterizations for their actions to make sense. Plus, except Jorge and Galina, almost all of the characters were utterly difficult to care for.
“Every father longs to save their child from the suffering they themselves endured. And I won’t lie and tell you there won’t be suffering somewhere along this path. But there is always suffering. On any path. That is an unavoidable part of life, regardless of what you choose to do with it. Suffering is what makes us who we are.”
Admittedly, although the characters failed to compel me, they do have a distinctive voice from each other. This is a well-written book, and the contrast between each character’s POV—especially between Sonja and Sebastian—was well done. Skovron’s world-building felt atmospheric; The Ranger of Marzanna is a Russian-inspired fantasy, and the environmental description implement made me feel cold. It was as if I was there experiencing the whiteness of the scenery and the coldness of the weather. Also, check out this—probably—nod to Assassin’s Creed:
“Apparently one could survive a jump from sixty feet into a wagon filled with straw, but not without great cost.”
The Ranger of Marzanna is a good start to a trilogy, but I seriously have no idea how the content of this book will be able to stand out among countless amazing books in the genre right now. I truly believe that we’re living in the golden age of fantasy at the moment, and it will be challenging for The Ranger of Marzanna to earn its spot inside it; it’s a good read to pass the time, but in my opinion, there aren’t enough noteworthy features in this novel. Overall, I’m a bit disappointed with this one.
Official release date: 23rd April 2020 (UK) and 21st April 2020 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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