Illborn has been on my TBR for well over a year before I decided to take the plunge. After reading this novel cover to cover I am pleading with the rest of the fantasy community to not make the same mistake I did. Illborn is the beginning of an epic series heavily invested in religion in all its strengths and weaknesses. How the fear of the unknown can shape our vision and desires. How redemption is not a zero sum game and how our dreams are not always what we envisioned them to be when we were children. A four person POV story and I was pushed and pulled in so many direction by these characters that my favorite character was constantly changing. If this is what the author can offer to us in a debut novel, then we are all in for something special. Lets get into the main characters.
Before I begin there is one thing that I need to point out. Each of our four main characters at one point in the story witness the same dream of an archway on the top of a mountain. Once there, they see one figure exiting the archway and pointing a finger before the characters wake up. The affects of this dream will change our main characters in different, exciting, and in some cases tragic ways. Are you still with me? Good because now is the time for the main attraction.
Allana is the daughter of a prostitute in the city of Sen Aiduel. When we first see Allana her mother is on her death bed and she has little choice but to seek the help of the church. When the High Priest visits Allana, he is expecting to seek the services of Allana’s mother to learn she has passed. When the priest tries to take his passions out on Allana, she stabs him and decides to flee the city. Over and over again she is waking up from this strange dream where three words keep repeating in her mind: Lust, Power, Domination. These words will define her journey and you may not like where it turns out.
Corin is a tribe member in the Great Forest of Karn training to become a warrior. He constantly interacts with Agbeth who suffered a stroke in her youth and is always taunted by other tribe members but she is the only friend Corin has. When the tribe goes on a mission to raid an enemy tribe, Corin abandons his allies and flees when he refuses to murder a helpless mother and child. As punishment, Corin is exiled and Agbeth decides to join him. While traveling north and trying to find shelter, Corin has the same dream as Allana with these words in his mind: Fear, Control, Order. Corins journey is crazy, wild, and at the end of it all my favorite charcter by far. The ending is an adrenaline rush for sure.
Leanna is a young woman destined to be married to whom everyone desribes as the perfect match. Leanna has come to the realization that this is not the life she wants and decides to take the vows of submission to the Holy Church for training. Lord Aiduel is an important part of Leanna’s life as she is always praying to him for guidance. Eventually, Leanna is placed into a war zone as a healer for soldiers and this recuring dream hits her like a right hook. These are the three words she hears: Devotion, Sacrifice, Salvation. She won’t always be in the right place at the right time but he will be cheering for her throughout the story.
Arion is the third brother for the Duke of House Sepian. Arion is destined to take the vows of submission for the Holy Church by order of his father but all he wants is to be a captain in the war to come. When Arions brother reveals that he has decided to take his vows, Arion is given his wish to be a soldier but the road ahead will be tough. He goes through intense training and beatings but his dreams are keeping him awake at night with these three words: Strength, Victory, Glory. His life will never be the same.
Each charcter is given different powers with this same dream and they all will change the plot drastically. Nothing was predictable and nobody knows what the future will hold. Although the story is over 700 pages, the chapters just flew by and I was glued to each and every page. Characters are the bread and butter for Daniel Jackson series and probably the best case of this were the interlude chapters. Here we follow the journey of a boy escaping a slave camp with his friends and the revelation at the end just blew me away. You are all in for something special!
I already have the sequel to Illborn in hand and it will be read in short order. Illborn is one of the best debut novels I have read in a very long time. Without a doubt this will be a top read for 2023 and do yourself a favor and get this book on your TBR. I can’t wait for what is to come!