ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: Chris McGrath
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth by Christopher Russell
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Divinity’s Twilight (Book #1)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Sci-fi, Steampunk
Pages: 498 pages (US Paperback edition)
Published: 2nd June 2020 by Morgan James Fiction (Indie)
This was good, an ambitious SFF debut to what I foresee will be a large series.
Due to my TBR pile that continues to exponentially grow uncontrollably, I have to say that I rarely accept an ARC/review copy from an unknown author these days. My gut, however, told me to accept the request to review Christopher Russell’s debut, Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth, and I’m glad I gave this one a go. I mean, how could I say no when Russell himself said that he’s a huge fan of The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson; the inspirations from that epic series was evident in his debut.
“The road to Oblivion is paved with good intentions.”
Rebirth starts off with a bang. I can’t remember when was the last time I read a prologue that lasted for 45 pages long; this prologue shows the truth behind the Illyrian War in Har’muth between Darmatus, Rabban, and Sarcon. The prologue, though slightly too long to be called a prologue, was executed magnificently. The event and aftermath of the battle of Har’muth became a solid foundation in which the main story takes place 697 years after the Battle. The setting, theology, and religions are all built based on the ideology that the three brothers who fought in that war had. Rabban believed that technology would lead to progress and prosperity necessary for peace; Darmatus believed that trust and understanding would bring peace; Sarcon believed that only strength and dominance could force peace upon the world. The respective followers of these three brothers that weren’t at the battle of Har’muth continue to strengthen their distinct guiding principle; hence causing almost 700 years of conflict.
“Some philosopher or another had once remarked that “it was lonely at the top.” Truer word had never been spoken. A merchant puts away his abacus and books and becomes a normal man. A pilot might exit his ship and return home to his ordinary family. But an emperor? An emperor is defined by his occupation. Everyone everywhere knows who you are at all times. There is no escape, your fate inextricably tied to the title you have now obtained.”
Although the story was predictable, there’s still a lot to appreciate in Rebirth. As shown in the prologue, Russell excels at writing history and flashback sequences; I personally think ALL the flashback scenes—prologue included—were the best parts of this debut, and I do wish there will be more to come in the sequels. I loved the prologue, Part 1, and several sections in Part 3 of the novel, but unfortunately, I have to also admit that I struggled through reading most of the action scenes. I wouldn’t call the action sequences poorly written, there was some excess of words, but the combination of magic and sci-fi that worked is something I always appreciate in my reads. Most of my nitpicks came from Russell’s decision to plunge the main characters into big confrontations before prioritizing the characterizations first, which is a bit of a shame because, in my opinion, Russel is really good at establishing character’s background through well-executed flashbacks. The characterizations and the character’s development came in Part 3 of the novel, and there’s nothing wrong with doing this; it’s just my preference to read about the characterizations first so I care about their lives—especially in a high fantasy series—before they engage in big action scenes. Excluding the three brothers from the prologue, Matteo, Vallen, Sylette, and Velle were characters I ended up caring but I definitely preferred I cared about them sooner than later.
“…kindness breaks this cycle of despair. By aiding others—regardless of what they’ve done, or the acts they’ve committed, and without expecting anything in return—we show them that there’s still good in this world. That there’s still hope for a better tomorrow. And, though it may sound hollow since it’s just me saying this, if enough of these tiny acts of kindness pile up, we really can change the world.”
Overall, though, despite a few minor issues, I do believe that Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth is a well-executed SFF debut. The combination of magic, fantasy, and technology was executed wonderfully. Rebirth definitely felt like a foundational volume to an ambitious series; the world-building and the characters have been established by the end of this book, and I foresee the series will only improve from here on out.
“The steward’s tired eyes sparkled at seeing his dearest companions, the stories and accounts, true and fictional, with which he’d shared countless hours. To the world, he was a middle-of-the-road politican, a nearly eighty-year-old man who let the winds of the world move him without ever takng a hard stance. But here he was an eternal student, a being of insatiable curiosity who could always learn more, no matter how many years passed him by.”
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!
My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Devin, Hamad, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Zoe.