Author: Alex Lidell
Publication Date: January 10, 2013
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.
Renee and Savoy are both awesome characters with large amounts of resolve and skill. Neither of them will give up on themselves or what they want. The difference between them lies in their amount of experience. Savoy has it and Renee doesn't. Their dynamic is enjoyable and I like seeing Savoy in the role of Renee's teacher and mentor.
The worldbuilding is pretty successful. The Academy makes a great setting. The politics aren't necessarily complicated, but the interpretation of law and incorporation of some strategies at how to deal with some of the problems of the kingdom are a focus. Lidell does a good job at showing how sometimes, in order to control a criminal population, one has to allow for it to continue to exist. There is such a thing as the lesser of two evils in Tildor. And I think that is one of the truths that Renee, and to an extent Savoy, both have to come to terms with in the story - that everything isn't so black and white, that the gray areas exist and that, sometimes, you need them.
The plot is not so fast in the first half as in the second, as it is mostly training and personal growth and getting to know the characters and their motivations and seeing the ways in which they interact. There are still some tensions, conflicts and pertinent information, and the pacing is decent. But these things are more heightened in the second half of the story. It is once the kidnapping takes place that the problems become more immediate and the pacing picks up because of it.
My one complaint would be that the reader never really gets inside the characters' heads much. The third person omniscient point of view flows from character to character, but I found out more about what each character was feeling from the dialogue of others than I did from the characters themselves. For example, it's insinuated by both Renee's friend Alec and Savoy's friend Seaborn that Renee has a crush on Savoy, but never from Renee herself, other than a one-time admiring of his physique. So it's never made clear whether she likes him as more than a friend and comrade. Because of this sort of thing, there is a little bit of a lack of emotion in places - just because the reader doesn't get the extent of the emotions felt by the characters at times. I suppose that is intentional given the fact that they're soldiers bound to duty and whatnot (because that is a big part of the characters' reasoning), but I think adding more emotional depth could have made this a favorite since everything else is pretty much great.
It's a good story, if a little predictable in places, and I enjoyed it. I'd recommend it to fans of fantasy and adventure, and particularly to those who want a book that doesn't focus on a love story.